CalGreen for San Jose

CalGreen for San Jose

San Jose Building Department

The city of San Jose has adopted the 2019 Green Building Standards Code. This can be found in the San Jose Municipal Code section 24.10.100. You can read the code section here. The code requires projects submit a CalGreen Checklist, along with their permit submittal. This applies to all residential and commercial projects, including ADU’s. In addition, residential remodels that add either conditioned area, volume or square footage must also submit a CalGreen Checklist. Commercial additions or alterations that add more than 1000 square feet must also submit a CalGreen Checklist.

San Jose has made limited amendments to the CalGreen Code. These include certain exceptions to the electric vehicle charging requirements. These are detailed in the municipal code sections 24.10.200 and 24.10.300. 

Unfortunately, as of the writing of this article, the city has a large number of misleading documents on their Planning, Building and Code Enforcement website. These include many outdated code pamphlets, bulletins, and links. If you are looking for information for your project make sure you check the publication date and the referenced code edition. On the same page you will find a mix of 2016 and 2019 code edition information sheets. The current code is the 2019 California Building Code and the 2019 Green Building Standards Code (CalGreen). 

To be fair, San Jose is no different than most city and county websites that struggle to keep online information updated. The never-ending funding and staffing cuts means priorities have to be set. Apparently, funds for updating websites seem to take a low priority.

San Jose Residential CalGreenHCD CalGreen

CalGreen for San Jose residential projects is clarified in the city’s Bulletin #220. The bulletin is dated March, 10, 2020 and references the 2019 California Building Code. The CalGreen requirement is noted on page 6, item number 104. Unfortunately, this reference also contains an error. This paragraph references the Housing and Community Development (HCD) website for the correct CalGreen checklist to submit. The erroneously refer to the 2016 checklist, instead of the current 2019 HCD CalGreen Checklist. To see the full bulletin, click on the image below. The incorrect code reference is highlighted. 


2019 Residential Plan Checklist

      San Jose’s Residential Plan Checklist (click for full version)

The city requires the submission of the HCD CalGreen Checklist for all residential projects. Unfortunately, this is one of the more extensive and confusing checklists to fill out. The reason for this is that is includes not only the required Mandatory Measures, but also, all of the voluntary Tier 1 and Tier 2 requirements.

San Jose has not adopted either the Tier 1 or Tier 2 requirements for residential projects. When filling out the checklist all of these items should be marked, “NA” (not applicable). The Tier requirements can best be identified by the section number. Any section starting with the letter “A” is a Tier requirement that is not required in San Jose. See the image below for a mark-up example.

San Jose has chosen to employ 3rd party plan reviewers for some of their residential permit applications. This is never a good thing for an owner, contractor, or architect. We’ve had two recent encounters with their 3rd party plan reviewer from Bureau Veritas.

In these cases the plan reviewer did not know which CalGreen Checklist the San Jose Building Department required (the one published by HCD). They directed us to use the AIA checklist. When we explained that we had submitted the correct checklist (the one published by HCD), he then questioned the checklist itself.

It was clear he had never seen the HCD checklist (below) and did not understand how this was to be filled out. Resolving these non-issues required multiple emails and phone calls with both the architect and the 3rd party plan reviewer. The result was a huge waste of time because the 3rd party plan reviewer was unfamiliar with San Jose requirements and the checklist published by the State of California.   

To be fair, this should not be interpreted as a condemnation of Bureau Veritas. We have dealt with them on other projects and found them to be informed and fair when it comes to CalGreen. However, there is no doubt that 3rd party plan reviewers cost every project time and money with their process.   

2019 HCD CalGreen Checklist

   The HCD State of California CalGreen Checklist

San Jose Commercial CalGreen

The City of San Jose requires all commercial projects submit a CalGreen Checklist. Once again, the current city website has a link to the wrong checklist. The link is to the 2016 code. The 2019 CalGreen Code checklist (located in the code itself) was changed significantly from the 2016 version.

The update to the 2019 CalGreen Code Checklist was not a positive one from a user perspective. The 2016 version contained a brief, but understandable, description of the requirement. This description was adequate for many architects and designers to determine if the requirement applied to their project or not. The 2019 checklist completely eliminated any explanation of hte requirements. It simply states the requirement and references the code section. Unless you are a CalGreen specialist it has become difficult to determine which mandatory requirements apply to your project. Here is the first page of the 2019 CalGreen Non-residential Mandatory Measures:


2019 CalGreen Non-Res Mandatory Measures Checklist

     2019 Non-Res. Mandatory Measures Checklist

San Jose will accept the AIA Non-residential checklist in lieu of the one from the code. However, this checklist can be difficult to navigate with detailed knowledge of the CalGreen Code.

Why You Need A CalGreen Specialist for San Jose Projects

The extensive amount of confusing, outdated and misleading information on the city website regarding CalGreen can create delays to your permit approval. Furthermore, the city staff are not the most knowledgeable on the CalGreen Code and can provide little assistance. This is not a knock on the San Jose building department, it is just the reality of tight budgets and a portion of the building code that is not well understood.

There are three important aspects to your project. The first is getting the CalGreen portion of your permit approved without delay.

The second is ensuring that you do not pay for compliance items that are not required for your project.

The third is ensuring that the minimum code requirements are included in your permit plans so there are no surprises when it comes getting your occupancy permit. 

It takes a CalGreen specialist to ensure all of the above goals are met. Having your CalGreen Checklist authored by a CalGreen specialist costs as little as $245 (residential projects). There is no reason not to ensure this portion of your project is handled professionally. 

CalGreen professional

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

ICC Certified CalGreen Inspector

CalGreen Energy Services

CalGreen Checklist

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