First in the nation: California adopts mandatory green building code


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California’s first-in-the-nation mandatory green building code will help the state meet its tough curbs on greenhouse gas emissions and its goal of deriving a third of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. ‘California continues to pave the way,’ said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, praising the code adopted Tuesday by the California Building Standards Commission.

The code, which takes effect in January 2011, will require that every new home, commercial building and public structure reduce water consumption by 20% below the current code. It mandates separate water meters for indoor and outdoor water use in non-residential buildings. Large landscaping projects will have to install moisture-sensing irrigation systems.


The code will also encourage recycling by forcing builders to divert 50% of construction waste away from landfills. Materials must be low-polluting, as in paints that emit fewer volatile organic compounds. Inspections of energy systems such as heat furnaces and air conditioners will be mandatory in non-residential buildings over 10,000 square feet to ensure that all are working at maximum efficiency.

Environmentalists praised the mandatory elements of the code but opposed the code’s voluntary CalGreen label, saying that it would cause confusion in the market. CalGreen labels could compete with the much stricter Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards of the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council, which have become a national norm, they said.

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--Margot Roosevelt