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CalGreen – What to Show on Your Permit Plans

CalGreen – What to Show on Your Permit PlansArchitectural Drawing Notes

So you’ve got the CalGreen Checklist complete for your project, but what do you need to show on your permit plans? The simple answer is that every applicable item on your checklist needs to have a corresponding note, table, or detail on your drawings.

In a previous article we detailed the majority of the notes applicable to all residential projects. We even provided a Word document that you can download. You can them copy and paste the notes right on to your plans. This will help ensure all of the CalGreen Code requirements are covered. You can see the article and downloads the notes here.

Keep in mind that it is not just the permit review you need to be concerned about. It’s also important that your contractor has included the requirements in his bid and is aware of his obligations during construction. 

One of the most overlooked aspects to CalGreen documentation is the lack of guidance as to the contractor’s obligations during construction. In addition, it needs to be made clear on the contract documents what records the contractor needs to maintain. When the building inspector shows up for the final inspection they will likely ask for the “CalGreen documentation”. It’s not realistic to expect your contractor to understand the CalGreen Code requirements. Technically they may be responsible for code compliance, but many such lawsuits have been lost because a design professional did not make scope requirements clear “at the time of bid”.

It is important for design professionals to understand that merely having a checklist in your permit set does not demonstrate professional due diligence. The intent of the checklist is to verify that you have shown the CalGreen requirements on your permit plans, and have noted the contractor’s responsibilities during construction.  

Handling CalGreen Compliance is Not Hard


There are two aspects to ensuring your plans are clear on the code requirements.

The first is to have a note, detail, table, etc., that specifically addresses each applicable item on your checklist. Many of these items can be covered by the CalGreen Notes linked above. Some of these items, however, will require a little extra effort. These include showing the grade sloping away from the building foundation, ensuring the electrical service is sized to handle the 240 volt, 40 amp future electrical vehicle charging station, providing the CalGreen Code tables for the VOC limits of materials, and ensuring that landscape irrigation systems are actually designed to meet the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance. It is also important to show a vapor barrier and all slab-on-grade foundations.

The second aspect is ensuring the contractor’s responsibilities during construction are clearly noted.

It is important that the contractor maintain records of VOC containing materials, and ensures they meet the CalGreen Code limits. This applies to paints, stains, caulks, coatings, adhesives, sealants, carpet, flooring, and plywood.

Another requirement is to record the moisture content of three wood framing members. This can be any three studs, joists, beams, or columns. The moisture content must be less than 19%. To record this we recommend the contractor take photos of the framing members and the moisture readings. These can be forwarded to the building inspector at project close-out. Note that in some jurisdictions the moisture readings may be performed by the CalGreen Special Inspector.

Perhaps the most important records are the construction waste recycling documentation. Just about every building department in the state takes this seriously. The plans should note that the contractor needs to meet with the building inspection department at the beginning of the project to ensure they understand how they will document the 65% construction waste recycling. This can be very challenging to accomplish, so it’s important the contractor is clear from the start.

If you follow the above guidance on your residential projects, you will have covered the critical CalGreen Code compliance issues. I told you it’s not hard!

The Exceptions

CalGreen exceptions

There are two exceptions to the previous information.

The first is if your jurisdiction requires CalGreen Tier 1 or Tier 2 compliance. The CalGreen Tiers are the “voluntary measures” portion of the code. I wish they had called them something other than “voluntary”, because there is nothing voluntary about them. If your jurisdiction has adopted them, then they are mandatory for your project. The Tiers had six additional requirements into your project. However, you are able to choose from anumber of options for each Tier item. This is a very good time to consult with a CalGreen specialist. They can help you pick the least costly options for your project. They can also assist you with documenting these requirements.

The second exception is non-residential projects. The CalGreen Code requirements for non-residential projects are quite extensive and poorly documented in the code. This is true even if your project does not have a Tier 1 or 2 requirement. These requirements can be very costly and it is important that they be factored into the project budget early in the design process. Unless your an expert in the CalGreen Code, I would strongly advise you to engage a CalGreen specialist for any non-residential project. They can save you time, and your project money.  

ICC Certified CalGreen Inspector

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


Phone: 707-328-5299

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