Cal Green for Walnut Creek
CalGreen for Walnut Creek can be confusing due to the lack of guidance on the city’s website. Further confusing the issue is the CalGreen checklist that is posted there.
There are some jurisdictions that, perhaps, go a little over-board with sustainable design. Then there are those that don’t seem to make any effort towards green and sustainable construction. Walnut Creek falls into the latter.
As of November 11, 2021, the city has not even updated their published CalGreen Code checklist to the 2019 CalGreen Code! Click here for the link to the city’s website where the checklist is published. Scroll down to the heading Policy Statements and Code Interpretations and click on the link titled “Residential CalGreen Code Checklist (IB-035).” Here is a copy of the checklist. Note that the date on it is June 9, 2017, placing under the 2016 Green Building Standards Code. The code had significant changes in 2019 and these changes are not incorporated into the checklist.
If you, or your architect, are following this checklist I can guarantee your project will not be in compliance with the current State of California Building Code requirements! This is a simple fact, and one that can cost a home owner a significant amount of money in change orders at the end of the project.
This is wrong on so many levels. The first is that a municipality has a legal and fiduciary responsibility to ensure that buildings under their jurisdiction comply with state code.
Secondly, a city has a duty to their residents to provide a clear path for permit compliance. Failure to do so places home-owners, designers, architects, and contractors in a legal quandary that can end up exposing them to costly change orders and lawsuits.
Lastly, not updating the code requirements more than two years after the code has changed leads to confusion as to which code they should comply with. If your building a new home in Walnut Creek should you comply with the 2016 Green Building Standards Code, or the 2019 Code? Under the California Administrative Code, all jurisdictions in the state are required to enforce the current State Building Codes. Yet, here in 2021, two years after the current code came into affect, Walnut Creek is still directing compliance with the 2016 Code.
So which code should your 2021 or 2022 project comply with? If you call the building department and ask them they will tell you the 2019 code. Then they will direct you to the 2016 CalGreen Code checklist on their website! This would almost be funny, if the ramifications weren’t so serious.
Why Hasn’t Walnut Creek Updated to Current Code?
This is a great question that doesn’t have an answer.
We work with building department’s all over the state. We understand that many rural towns and county’s may not have the financial means to keep some of their online data up to date. Financial hardship is a real concern in rural areas that struggle with municipal priorities.
However, Walnut Creek is one of the richest city’s in the Bay Area. Their 2020-2021 budget includes $250,000 for a Bicycle Master Plan (see page 108). Yet they haven’t been able to update the city’s code requirements for over two years!
This is such a simple fix it’s astonishing that the building department has made zero effort to correct this. All they need to do is delete their out-of-date checklist from their website and reference either the Housing and Community Development CalGreen Checklist, or Architects Institute of America (AIA) checklist.
The CalGreen Code is California’s Sustainable Code!
It is sad, disturbing, and just plain wrong that Walnut Creek refuses to take green and sustainable design seriously. The Green Building Code Standards is California’s building sustainable code.
It is ridiculous that Walnut Creek has spent thousands, upon thousands, of dollars on a Sustainability Action Plan, yet won’t spend a few hundred dollars to update to the 2019 Green Building Code Standards requirements.
Yes, this is politics at it’s worst. The elected officials are more than happy to take credit for appearing “green” by supporting a sustainable action plan. At the same time, no one seems to care that the current sustainable code is not being enforced. This is green-washing at it’s worst.
Greenwashing (a compound word modelled on “whitewash”), also called “green sheen“, is a form of marketing spin in which green PR and green marketing are deceptively used to persuade the public that an organization’s products, aims and policies are environmentally friendly.
So what do you do?
You can contact the building department (925-943-5834, Buildingtech@walnut-creek.org) and ask them how you are to reconcile their out- of-date 2016 code Cal Green checklist with the 2019 CalGreen code. I can tell you that you will not get a clear answer.
You can follow the out-of-date checklist and hope that your building inspector is not familiar with the current Cal Green code.
You can complain to the mayor (925-256-3504, firstname.lastname@example.org – ask for Loella Haskew) that the city needs to take sustainable building design seriously – today. Not 2, or 5, or 10 years, from now.
If you are a homeowner who has hired a designer or architect for your project, insist that they understand the current code requirements and include them in your project. Make sure they do not simply follow the out-of-date checklist.
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.