Los Angeles CalGreen
Los Angeles CalGreen compliance is, perhaps, the most confusing process in the state. The LA City Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) is the permit division for building construction and oversees the CalGreen Code requirements.
The City of Los Angeles has adopted the 2019 California Green Building Standards Code, with amendments. The adoption is noted in Ordinance 186488. The text of this document is located here.
Fair warning – this document looks like it was printed on a circa 1980 dot matrix printer. And not a good one. The various formatting errors, punctuation errors and spelling mistakes is more than a little disconcerting for an official building code. To say the document is unprofessional is an understatement. Yet, this is the official document of the Los Angeles Building Department.
The point of the criticism is that this code is enforceable by law. If one is financially and legally obligated to comply with it, the lack of professionalism is unsettling. If the city is this sloppy with their documentation, it raises a real concern as to what serious errors may be contained in the requirements?
The problems with this document do not stop at literary issues. There are twenty-six pages of amendments to the 2019 Green Building Standards Code! Further confusing the issue is that many of the forms and tables are exact copies of the referenced code.
Then there is the numbering system. The section numbers in the CalGreen portion of the amendment include the referenced CalGreen code numbers (ie: A188.8.131.52), plus the LA Municipal Code numbers (ie: 99.11.101) plus “section” numbers (ie: Sec. 362). All of these numbers are mixed together making clear interpretations a logistical challenge.
The City of Los Angeles Green Building Code is in dire need of a complete re-write. However, this is not likely to happen anytime soon. In the meantime, we will try to add some clarity to the situation.
The CalGreen Forms
The city has attempted to improve CalGreen compliance by creating a series of forms to use. The official Green Building page provides a link to these forms. The 2020 Green Building Forms page contains twenty CalGreen forms! Note that this does note include another series of forms on another page – the Standard CalGreen Correction Forms.
If your one of those architects who have all the time in the world to study all of these forms stop reading here. I’m sure your time could be better spent on door hardware schedules….
Sarcasm aside, the posted forms are helpful, to a degree. Here is a list of the current 2020 forms with the links to them.
If you are doing a residential project you need to review forms GRN1, GRN4, GRN9, GRN11, GRN14, GRN16, GRN17 and GRN18R. Unfortunately, the GRN4 Mandatory Requirements checklist (or GRN9 for Additions/Alterations) have no explanation of the actual code requirements. Form GRN4 simply lists the CalGreen Code section number and titles. They do not provide any explanation of what they are.
If you are doing a Los Angeles Calgreen commercial project less than 10,000 square feet, you will need to review forms GRN1, GRN5, GRN10, GRN11, GRN15, GRN17, and GRN18N. Form GRN5, the Mandatory Requirements for Non-residential Buildings does not provide any description of the requirements.
If you are doing a new commercial project over 10,000 square feet, then you are required by both the CalGreen Code and the California Energy Code to provide commissioning. The commissioning requirements are contained in forms GRN20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26. In this case you will need to engage a commissioning consultant. This is a service we provide at very reasonable rates. You can learn more about our commissioning services here.
Using the Los Angeles CalGreen Forms – Residential
Form GRN1 applies to any project (residential or commercial) that includes any exterior work. Any applicable items listed should have a note or detail on the permit plans.
GRN4 is the Residential Mandatory Measure that apply to all residential projects including ADUs, single-family residences, hotels and apartment buildings. The form only lists the specific code number and title. It provides no narrative of what the requirements are. Form GRN14 does provide some guidance on some of the items listed. For others, you will need to review the CalGreen Code to determine if each requirement applies to your project. Any requirements that apply must be addressed on the permit plans by either a note, detail or design.
Form GRN9 is the Residential Additions and Alterations form that applies to any project that “increases the conditioned area, volume, or space of the building”. The reference to “conditioned area” refers to any area that is heated or cooled. This form, too, provides no description of the actual code requirements. Any requirements that apply must be addressed on the permit plans by either a note, detail or design.
Form GRN11 is the VOC Limit Tables. All volatile organic compounds used on the project must meet, or exceed, the listed criteria. This form should be inserted into the architectural set to help ensure compliance by the contractor.
Form GRN14 is the residential plan check notes. This is intended to provide guidance on some of the items on the GRN4 form. A sharp eye will note that the GRN4 form lists forty-one requirements. The GRN14 form only provides guidance on twenty-six items. To make things more confusing the item numbers on the GRN14 form do not match the numbering system on the GRN4 form.
Form GRN16 is the mandatory residential plumbing fixture flow rate table. All plumbing fixtures must meet, or exceed, these requirements. It is recommended that this table be inserted into the architectural set to help ensure compliance by the contractor.
Form GRN18R is the Los Angeles Green Building ordinance for residential water conservation. This ordinance applies to single-family residences as well as multi-family dwelling units. This form can be particularly difficult to determine which items are applicable to your project. It mixes single-family residence requirements with multi-family residences and is not clear on which is applicable to what type of project. Then it throws in requirements from the LA Plumbing Code as well as the California Energy Code. Reading the governing ordinance can add even further confusion. You can read it here. Most of the requirements apply to multi-family dwellings. Some, such as the MWELO requirements, also apply to single-family residences. For most single-family residences as long as you comply with the plumbing fixture flow rates in GRN16, and the MWELO requirements, you should be ok.
Using the Los Angeles CalGreen Forms – Non-Residential
The Los Angeles CalGreen non-residential forms follow a similar process as the residential. For buildings over 10,000 square feet there is the added complication of commissioning. This will require a third-party commissioning consultant.
It is important to note that the CalGreen commissioning requirements are far simpler than a LEED or AABC commissioning process. The fees, likewise, should be far less. Not all commissioning agents understand this and will give you a fee for services far more extensive than actually required. For this reason we recommend contacting a CalGreen commissioning specialist.
How We Can Help
Here’s our sales pitch. For between $200 and $300 we can provide the CalGreen services for your single-family residential project. For this fee we provide the following:
- Provide the CalGreen Checklist services by an ICC certified CalGreen Special Inspector
- Review of the local jurisdiction CalGreen submittal requirements.
- Author the CalGreen Checklist, omitting any requirements that are not specifically required.
- Review the permit submittal plans for compliance with the local jurisdiction requirements. We will provide a list of any items missing and the notes to cover them.
- Provide a full-size PDF drawing file of the completed CalGreen Checklist forms, suitable for permit submittal.
- Review and respond to any permit comments on the Checklist.
We have a 2 day turn-around from the authorization to proceed.
If you forward your permit plans to the email below we will get right back to you with a written proposal.
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.