Cal Green for Your Home Addition
Cal Green for your home addition, or remodel, requires that you provide documentation that your permit plans include all of the applicable Cal Green Code (California Green Building Standards Code) requirements. Accordingly most building departments will require you to provide an edited Cal Green Checklist for your project.
The CalGreen Checklist is a form that is required to be submitted with your building permit application. The purpose of the checklist is to document which California Green Buildings Standard Code items your project will comply with.
In addition, the CalGreen Checklist is intended to ensure that your permit plans have incorporated these requirements into the building design. The Green Building Standards Code is relatively new in the industry and not well understood. The checklist is a tool for the building department to verify that you have included all the required items in your project.
It’s important to know that almost every building department has a different checklist requirement. There is no standard checklist that is acceptable throughout California. You must use the checklist approved by your building department. If your not sure which checklist to submit either ask your Cal Green specialist, or call your building departments plans desk and ask them.
Filling out your checklist should be done by someone knowledgeable in the Cal Green Code. The checklist must be edited to include only those items that apply to your project. Every item that gets checked on the checklist must be included in your project – and will cost you money. It takes a specialist, with detailed knowledge of the code, to ensure you are not committing to more work than is required. The worst thing you can do is copy and paste a checklist into your permit plans with all of the boxes checked!
Does Your Project Have to Submit a Checklist?
This is the first, and most important question. Cal Green compliance for your home addition or remodel is only required “where the addition or alteration increases the building’s conditioned area, volume, or size.”
Let’s break this code language down. First, the term “conditioned” refers to a space that is currently heated or cooled.
The building “area” means an increase in the building’s over-all square footage. For example, an interior remodel does not increase the over- all square footage.
The building “volume” means an increase in the building’s height. This would apply if you were increasing the height of a room in the building but not increasing the square footage of the building. For example, creating a “great room” out of your existing living room by either raising the ceiling or raising the roof.
The building “size” means an increase in the building’s – well I’m not really sure since the size would also include the building’s area or the volume. If there is an example where an increase in the building’s size did not include an increase in area or volume, I don’t know of one. The building code is not mistake-free!
If you are simply doing an interior remodel of a space that is already heated and cooled, you do not need to comply with the Cal Green Code.
However, if your remodel includes an area that was not previously heated or cooled, even if you are not increasing the area of the home, then you will need to comply.
Here is the 2019 Cal Green Code section with the exact language:
What Does Cal Green Mean for My Home Addition or Remodel?
Cal Green for your home addition or remodel is rarely a big expense. In fact, the City of Petaluma is the only jurisdiction we know of where this can be costly. For almost all other areas this is more an exercise in due diligence.
You will need to ensure stormwater does not run off your property during construction. Inexpensive straw “wattles” are available at your local building supply store.
You will need to take three moisture readings from framing members and record this data. This can be accomplished using a $35 moisture meter and then taking pictures of the framing members, and the moisture readings.
You will need to keep records of all VOC containing materials during construction including paints, stains, caulks, adhesives, carpet, flooring, etc.
You will need to ensure any new plumbing fixtures meet the flow requirements of the code.
New bathrooms will require exhaust fans that are humidity controlled.
New concrete slabs will require a vapor barrier.
The most complicated aspect is the need for a construction waste recycling plan and documentation. This can vary by jurisdiction and is not something to be taken lightly. Some jurisdictions are leveling large fines for not properly documenting the recycling of construction waste.
The most important critical part of Cal Green compliance is ensuring the documentation is assembled and maintained during your construction project.
Do I Need to Hire a Cal Green Specialist?
Whether you need to hire a Cal Green specialist will depend on a couple of conditions.
The first is that certain jurisdictions require you to hire a Cal Green Special Inspector to author, and sign, your checklist. In addition, some also require a final inspection by the special inspector. Some of the jurisdictions include Santa Rosa, Sonoma and Napa counties, Burlingame, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Marin County, Palo Alto and others.
Secondly, it depends on the experience of your architect or building designer. Unfortunately many architects and designers have little experience with the Cal Green code. Far too many simply cut and paste the checklist on their plans with little understanding of the problems they are creating for the homeowner. If all of the boxes on the Cal Green checklist are checked, you can be sure your architect does not understand the code.
If you are uncertain, call a Cal Green specialist and ask for a quote for your project. You will be surprised how small the fee is to ensure you don’t spend more money that you have to. A Cal Green specialist will save you money on your project.
At CalGreen Energy Services we are specialists in the CalGreen Code. CalGreen is our only business. If you have a CalGreen question please feel free to give us a call. We are happy to share our knowledge.
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.