CalGreen problems plague almost every new construction project in California. Resolving these problems has become a large part of our business. The reason for the problems falls into two main categories.
The first is the code itself. Both the format and the content of the code are very different from the other California Building Standards codes.
The organization and the numbering system of the code is inconsistent with the Building Code, the Residential Code, the Mechanical and Plumbing codes and the Electrical code. Architects and other design professionals struggle trying to find, and interpret, specific code sections.
In addition, the CalGreen code requirements are highly subject to amendments by local jurisdictions. Consequently, many jurisdictions have developed their own CalGreen Checklist. In many cases these are significantly different than the checklists published in the code. This leads to more confusion in the industry when it comes to CalGreen, “the sustainable code”.
The second reason CalGreen problems can cause issues on your project is related to the first reason. The lack of clarity and understanding of the code results in CalGreen-required items not being included in the design. This aspect rears its ugly head during the final inspection when the missing items are discovered.
So, what do you do when your project is complete, and you haven’t complied with CalGreen? In some cases, such as VOC compliance, its virtually impossible to correct the problem after the fact. This is one example of the many CalGreen problems that only arise at the final inspection.
CalGreen is Not Being Reviewed at the Permit Stage!
Its true. We handle CalGreen projects all over the state and most building departments simply have no time to do a thorough review of CalGreen compliance. Further, the vagaries of the code are frustrating to plan reviewers who prefer to deal in absolutes.
For example, when the plumbing code says the water closets must not exceed 1.28 gallons per flush, its easy for a plan reviewer to verify.
On the other hand, the CalGreen code has three different flow rates for toilets, and they depend on the local jurisdiction to decide (via the Tiers process).
There are many other examples in the CalGreen code that provide options for compliance, instead of definitive direction. Local building departments do not have the time or staff to deal with these subjective requirements.
In fact, a typical building department barely has the time and staff to review ADA requirements, structural, life safety, electrical and other critical code requirements. They just don’t have the budgets to properly review sustainability code issues.
The CalGreen Trap
So, you’ve got your permit and there were no CalGreen comments – woohoo!
Nope. This is no time to celebrate. The fact that you received no CalGreen comments should be a red flag. Unfortunately, few understand the trap they have just fallen into.
What has happened is that no one in the building department has even looked at your CalGreen compliance. It’s simply been “passed thru”. They can do this because they assume no liability for code compliance. The building owner must comply with the code whether the permit drawings were correct or not.
The takeaway is that you need to rely on your CalGreen code specialist to review all the permit plans to ensure your design complies with all the code requirements. Failure to do so can result in expensive change orders and costly delays at the end of the project.
CalGreen Problems at Close-out
You’re finally done and ready for final inspection. The general contractor is confident he has followed the contract drawings and met all his obligations. Then the building inspector visits the site and you learn the bad news. Your project does not comply with some of the CalGreen requirements.
No problem, you’ll just have the general contractor take care of it, right?
Big problem, actually. If the requirements are not in the contract documents the general contractor has no obligation to provide them. If fact, he is looking at a big fat change order for some of the missed items.
But what about the items that can’t be fixed after the fact? These might include documentation of all the VOC containing materials (flooring, carpet, paint, stains, glues, caulks and sealants). Or the lack of construction waste documentation. Or the moisture content of the wood framing was not documented? The only answer here is to call a CalGreen specialist and have them negotiate with the building department to close out these items.
We Solve CalGreen Problems
About fifty percent of our business is solving CalGreen problems.
Many of our projects begin with a frantic email – “Help, we’re in for permit and just found out we need to submit CalGreen documents. And we need them now!”. We recognize many people don’t realize they need several CalGreen documents when they submit for permit. We are happy to help. We can get permit documents completed and into the building department in two days, in most cases.
The other CalGreen problem we are frequently asked to help with is project close-out. Typically, a building inspector has written a field report noting that some CalGreen requirements have not been included in the completed building. This becomes an urgent problem since the building cannot be occupied until the issues have been resolved. In some cases, its just too late to comply. So, what do you do?
You call CalGreen Energy Services. We will review the issue directly with the building inspector or plan reviewer. We will work with them to negotiate a resolution to close-out your project.
We are ICC certified CalGreen Special Inspectors and our certification allows us to negotiate from a position of strength. We are knowledgeable on the intent of the code. Frequently we are able to recreate documentation after the fact, or propose other solutions, to get your final occupancy permit. This is the benefit that a CalGreen specialist brings to your project.
At CalGreen Energy Services we are specialists in the CalGreen Code. CalGreen is our only business. If you have a CalGreen problem please feel free to give us a call. We are happy to share our knowledge.
To learn more about the CalGreen Code visit the Building Standards website:
You can download the Housing and Community Development published VOC forms here:
To learn more about the CalGreen Inspection requirements see our informative article here:
Call us today and let us show you how we can help with your project.
Gary Welch has over 35 years experience in the field of sustainable building design. He is the CEO of CalGreen Energy Services. Gary is an ICC Certified CalGreen Special Inspector and Plans Examiner.