In 2010 the California Building Standards Commission published the first version of the California Green Building Standards Code. This code name became abbreviated into the CalGreen Code or just “CalGreen”.
The Building Standards Commission describes the intent of the code as follows:
The purpose of this code is to improve public health, safety and general welfare by enhancing the design and construction of buildings. The goal is for positive environmental impact and encouraging sustainable construction practices in the following categories:
- Planning and design.
- Energy efficiency.
- Water efficiency and conservation.
- Material conservation and resource efficiency.
- Environmental quality
The code was created to require sustainable building practices into all new buildings in California. It applies to both residential and commercial buildings.
CalGreen includes both mandatory and voluntary measures. Mandatory requirements involve water and energy efficiencies, indoor air quality and the use of sustainable building materials. Voluntary measures, on the other hand, are encouraged to enhance the requirements and/or add sustainable features, such as photo-voltaic solar, high-performance HVAC systems and energy efficient lighting fixtures.
There have been three updates to the CalGreen Code since its inception. The current version is the 2019 code.
The CalGreen Special Inspector
The CalGreen code created a new entity in the building inspection world – the CalGreen Special Inspector. There are many sustainable issues in the code that are outside the experience of many building inspectors. It was for this reason that the California Building Standards Commission created this new position.
CalGreen Special Inspectors must have years of experience in the building design field. They must pass a state exam and commit to recurrent training.
The duties of the CalGreen Special Inspector include verification that the CalGreen requirements are included within the permit documents. In addition, they verify all CalGreen requirements are installed at the end of construction.
In most jurisdictions the CalGreen Special Inspector must sign the final Implementation Verification form which is then submitted to the local building department prior to issuance of the Occupancy Certificate.
The CalGreen Checklist
The new code created another new entity – the CalGreen Checklist. A completed checklist is required to be submitted as part of the building permit application on all new residential and commercial projects. The checklist provides a summary of all the sections of the CalGreen Code that may, or may not, be relevant to your project.
Typically, the architect or CalGreen Consultant will fill out the checklist by marking an “X” in the boxes that are relevant to your project. It is important to understand that checking a box will commit the project to compliance that will later be verified by inspection. It is critical to only check the boxes that the project is absolutely required to comply with.
At CalGreen Energy Services we see many projects that are submitted with unnecessary boxes checked due to the lack of experience with the CalGreen Code. Some of these requirements may burden the project with unnecessary costs, including more expensive materials and costly testing.
CalGreen Tiers 1 and 2
The Tiers of the California Green Building Standards Code allow local building departments to set higher standards for certain sustainable goals.
The Tier 1 optional requirements are more restricted than the basic code requirements and include requirements such as higher energy efficiency goals and reduced water consumption targets.
The Tier 2 requirements up the ante with even higher, or more stringent, sustainable goals than Tier 1.
The Tiers are only mandatory where local ordinances have specifically adopted them. Local adoption varies widely throughout the state. The more progressive jurisdictions have adopted many of the Tier 1 requirements. Few of the local jurisdictions have yet to adopt Tier 2 requirements, though this is to be expected in the near future.
It is important to check with your local building department to see if they have adopted any of the Tier 1 or 2 requirements.
Integrating CalGreen into Your Project
Most projects require the services of a CalGreen Special Inspector. The special inspector must review and sign the CalGreen Checklist before it is submitted as part of the permit documents to the building department.
The special inspector must be notified of any relevant changes to the project during construction to ensure the project remains compliant. The end of the project is no time to learn that the electrical vehicle charging stations that were value-engineered out of the project, are a actually a mandatory part of CalGreen and must be added back! At CalGreen Energy Services we have seen similar situations that have delayed the beneficial occupancy of the building.
The last series of tasks for the CalGreen Special Inspector is the Implementation Verification. The inspector will visit the site and verify that all items included in the approved checklist are installed and properly documented. Once the installation has been verified the inspector will sign the Implementation Verification form which is them submitted to the building department for the Occupancy Certificate.
While the California Green Building Standards Code can be confusing, the requirements do add value to your project. It is important to have a knowledgeable CalGreen specialist to guide you through the process.
At CalGreen Energy Services we have decades of experience not only in sustainable design, but also in HVAC and Plumbing engineering. This wide range of experience can help ensure your project is not over-committing on your CalGreen requirements.
We respond quickly to emails and voicemails. We will put together a proposal for you right away and can typically start on your project within a couple of days.
Email or call us now to see how we can help you:
Link to the California Building Standards Commission on CalGreen:
CalGreen Non-Residential Mandatory Measures:
CalGreen Residential Mandatory Measures:
City of Sacramento CalGreen Requirements: