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CalGreen Compliance and California Schools

DSA and CalGreenDSA - Division of the State Architect

DSA has special guidelines for CalGreen compliance in California schools.

The California Division of the State Architect (DSA) is the governing body for the construction of public schools in California. DSA provides design and construction oversight for K–12 schools and community colleges to ensure that they comply with all sustainable, structural, accessibility, and fire and life safety codes.

All school construction must be reviewed and approved by DSA before a contract for construction can be awarded. Once a contract is awarded there are a number of aspects of DSA projects that differ from the private sector. These include:

  • A project owner (school or community college district) must hire a DSA-certified inspector to oversee construction. The inspector selection must be approved by the owner, design professionals and DSA.
  • Changes to the approved drawings and specifications for DSA-regulated portions of the project shall be submitted and approved by DSA prior to commencement of work.
  • At the conclusion of construction, the design professionals, the inspector and the contractor shall file verified reports with DSA indicating the work has been performed in compliance with the approved plans and specifications.

DSA  has published their own version of the CalGreen Checklist. This document is called “GL-4  Project Submittal Guideline: CalGreen Code.” The Guideline includes both Mandatory and Voluntary Measures.

The DSA CALGreen compliance review is limited to the mandatory measures, listed in Chapter 5. Chapter A5 is an appendix with voluntary measures provided as a guideline to further encourage green building design practices.

The measures outlined in the CALGreen Code, Chapter 5, Section 5.410.2 for Commissioning and Section 5.410.4 for Testing and Adjusting are not mandatory standards for schools and community colleges. However, these additional verification practices are encouraged to ensure performance, comfort, system durability, reliability, indoor air quality, and efficiency.

You can view the DSA GL-4 Project Submittal Guideline here: GL-4_ Project Submittal Guideline_ CALGreen Code

Certification Box for Construction Projects

The new “DSA Certification Box” is a rather confusing name for a rather mundane process. Essentially it is an online folder system in which you can upload your completed forms, plans and other documents for DSA review. This eliminates the need to submit multiple hard copies of drawings and forms. The folder structure for Approval of Plans is broken into the appropriate region and DSA application number.

The folder structure for Certified/Un-certified projects is broken into the appropriate region and school district. Project folders contain a letter or deficiency list that indicates documents and/or fees required to complete the project certification. The certified project folder also contains the certification letter.

You can review the DSA Certification Box website here:

The CalGreen Permitting and Construction Process

for SchoolsCalGreen for Schools

If you are considering your first project requiring DSA approval, you are in for a steep learning curve. Due to the very real concern over earthquakes, and other safety issues, the process is complex and the over-sight is intensive. All building components are scrutinized for structural integrity. Virtually all building systems require a structural engineer to design the anchorage and supports, no matter how small.

All aspects of the architectural, structural, electrical, mechanical, plumbing and civil designs receive scrutiny and inspections far beyond a private sector project. During construction, all changes, no matter how small, require DSA review and approval. Since the DSA approval process is quite slow, this can result in significant delays to the project completion. For these reasons a successful project will be submitted as a very complete package.

Some helpful links to learn more about the DSA permit and construction process:







So How Does DSA CalGreen Differ from Private Sector CalGreen?

The California Green Building Standards Code (aka CalGreen) applies in full to all DSA projects. It is an unfortunate and confusing aspect to this code that nearly every jurisdiction publishes their own version of the CalGreen Checklist. DSA is no different in this aspect. They too have published their own version of the Checklist which is included in the GL-4 form linked above.

As with private sector projects, you will need a CalGreen Special Inspector for your DSA project. Unlike some private sector projects it is critical to have a CalGreen specialist on your team. A CalGreen specialist can ensure your permit submittal is thorough and complete. This can avoid costly changes and delays during the construction process.

At CalGreen Energy Services we are specialists in CalGreen and DSA projects. We are intimately familiar with the DSA design, review and construction process. We can educate and guide your team to ensure that the CalGreen process is smooth and transparent. We will work directly with DSA to resolve any issues during the permit and construction process.

While the DSA construction process can be onerous, your CalGreen submittal need not be.

Call us today and let us show you how we can help with your school project.


Phone: 707-328-5299

CalGreen Energy Services

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