CalGreen for Santa Clara County

CalGreen for Santa Clara CountySanta Clara County Map

2020 UPDATE:

The following article was written in late 2019 and is still relevant. However, in January of 2020 Santa Clara County took another step forward in improving the CalGreen permitting process. The building department created a user-friendly CalGreen Checklist and Notes. The notes go into some detail on the requirements of the checklist items. For those knowledgeable in CalGreen this is a welcome step. For those with little or no experience in our sustainable code, the added information may just be more confusing.

It is perhaps, more important than ever, to hire a CalGreen specialist to manage your checklist. The county has taken a firm stand on CalGreen enforcement. Failure to fully comply with all of the code requirements could cause delays in your occupancy permit – and cost you extra money at the very end of your project. 

Our Original Article:

CalGreen for Santa Clara County is becoming more difficult for architects, builders and home owners alike. The county is now requiring additional documentation to approve your building permit. 

Enforcement of the California Green Building Standards Code has been erratic throughout the state. Nearly every jurisdiction has their own CalGreen Checklist and enforcement procedures. Many jurisdictions, including the entire San Joaquin Valley, are “self-permitting”. The term “self-permitting” means that the local building department will not review or enforce the CalGreen Code. Instead, they allow the architect, contractor or homeowner to sign a form stating that their project complies with the code. For these areas, the lack of enforcement has led to a lack of compliance.

Santa Clara County is moving towards the other end of the enforcement spectrum. The building department is now asking for more CalGreen compliance forms than any other jurisdiction. The permit submittal will not be approved if all the forms are not included.   

Santa Clara County Takes a Step Forward in Enforcement

Calgreen code enforcement

We are not sure why the county is placing new emphasis on CalGreen enforcement. However, what they are doing is nothing more than requiring the documentation called for in the code. Historically, this has not been the case. In fact, the only jurisdiction we know of that is similar is the Division of the State Architect (DSA) when applying for school projects.

The CalGreen Code required documents go far beyond the checklist. However few architects, contractors, developers and home owners are familiar with these “verification” documents. These documents are not spelled out in any of the CalGreen Checklists. Neither are they specifically called for in the code itself. However, the code require these items to be documented. To aid in this process the California Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has created a series of forms for this purpose. 

The CalGreen Verification Forms

CalGreen Verification Forms


Chapter 1 of the California Green Building Standards Code contains a somewhat innocuous paragraph that reads as follows: 

102.3 Verification. Documentation of conformance for applicable green building measures shall be provided to the enforcing agency. Alternate methods of documentation shall be acceptable when the enforcing agency finds that the proposed alternate
documentation is satisfactory to demonstrate substantial conformance with the intent of the proposed green building measure.

What the code left out is a clear description of what documentation is to be submitted and in what form. It provides some additional guidance in the Mandatory Measures section of both the residential and non-residential sections of the code. In both sections, you will see similar language that notes that the documentation may include, but is not limited to, the following:

1. Manufacturer’s product specification.

2. Field verification of on-site product containers.

This provides a little more information but still doesn’t clarify how a Santa Clara County contractor is to compile this data. Moreover, it provides no guidance as to how this is to be submitted to the enforcing agency. 

Fortunately, the California Housing and Urban Affairs Department recognized this was an issue. They generated a series of forms that the contractor can use for this purpose. The forms provide a simple format to document the materials installed on the project. These forms include Construction Waste Management, Pollutant Control, Recycled Content and Maintenance and Operation.   

 Contractors and the CalGreen Verification Forms

In order for the verification forms to be utilized they need to be provided to the General Contractor at the beginning of the project. It is quite a simple process to fill them out as construction progresses. 

For all of our CalGreen projects in Santa Clara County, we include the Verification Forms in the permit plans. This way the general contractor is made aware of the requirements at the outset of the project. They can fill in the forms as the project progresses. At the end of the project they will have a complete set of forms for the local jurisdiction. 

If the CalGreen permit documents are set up properly, the process itself can be quite simple. Sadly, too many projects are submitted with the CalGreen documents as an afterthought. This can put the project in a bind when the required verification forms are not available to the building inspector.


The Proper Way to Handle CalGreen in Santa Clara County

The most important step is to start with a knowledgeable CalGreen Consultant. This is not as easy as it sounds. Did you know that CalGreen Energy Services is the only CalGreen specialist in California? All of the other companies offering CalGreen services are doing it as an additional revenue stream to their main business. Their lack of focus on purely CalGreen issues leaves many of them uninformed on many key aspects of the code.

Secondly, ensure your CalGreen consultant, or architect, is including all of the relevant verification forms in the permit submittal drawings. Your general contractor will then be aware of his CalGreen obligations at the beginning of the project. 

Lastly, if you are in a bind without your verification forms, call us. We will work with the contractor and the local building department to complete the sign-off process. We will assist in recreating the verification forms and negotiate with the Santa Clara County building department to complete your CalGreen approval. This is one of the many benefits as CalGreen specialist can bring to your project.

At CalGreen Energy Services we are specialists in CalGreen consulting and permitting. CalGreen is our only business. This experience and knowledge can be invaluable in preventing your project from going horribly wrong.   

While the permit and construction process can be onerous, your CalGreen submittal need not be.

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

For more information on building permits in Santa Clara County see the requirements here:

For more information on our CalGreen Checklist services, please follow the link:

For more information on the California Housing and Urban Development forms see:

CalGreen Energy Services

CalGreen Checklist

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