Up to code

Gearing up for CalGreen Code

<br> Original sustainable space.

Original sustainable space.

Sustainable Space columnists Lori Brown and Greg Kallio are professors in the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Construction Management at Chico State University.

Required reading
The California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) is responsible for administering California’s building codes. California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 24, also known as the California Building Standards Code, is the required standard for all occupancies built in the state. What’s in Title 24? The 2007 triennial edition of CCR Title 24 consists of 12 parts, covering building-code requirements for things such as a building’s structure and its electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems.

Code green
A big part of Title 24 is energy conservation, and since 2007 it has included a California Green Building Standards Code (CalGreen Code). Building codes are designed to keep us safe inside of the buildings we inhabit. Considering it is estimated that Americans spend nearly 90 percent of their time indoors, it’s nice to know that codes are used to mandate the integrity of these buildings.

The 2008 CalGreen Code is the first statewide green-building-code standard. It is a supplement to the 2007 CalGreen Code and becomes effective Saturday (Aug. 1) for all new construction. Adherence to the code is voluntary until 2010, at which time its provisions are expected to become mandatory.

In the meantime, builders, local governments and communities will have time to adapt to the new green-building rules. The purpose of the code is to improve public health, safety and general welfare by enhancing the design and construction of buildings through the use of building concepts that have a positive environmental impact, and by encouraging sustainable construction practices in the following categories:

Planning and design

Energy efficiency

Water efficiency and conservation

Material conservation and resource efficiency

Environmental air quality

Setting standards
By establishing the CalGreen Code, CBSC is setting minimum green-building standards that may, at the discretion of any local government entity, be applied. Local government agencies are also encouraged to exceed the standards it establishes.

The code contains both mandatory and voluntary green-building measures that address areas such as energy efficiency, water consumption, dual-plumbing systems for potable and recyclable water, diversion of construction waste from landfills, and use of environmentally sensitive materials in construction and design (including eco-friendly flooring, carpeting, paint, coatings, thermal insulation and acoustical wall and ceiling panels).

In addition, the code provides provisions for reducing the quantity of air contaminates that are odorous, irritating and/or harmful to the comfort and well-being of a building’s installers, occupants and neighbors.

State’s initiative
CBSC does not intend that this code substitute or be identified as meeting the certification requirements of any green-building program, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s popular Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program. California has been a nationwide leader in energy-efficient building standards and has enacted codes that exceed even LEED requirements, indicating that the state recognizes the negative impact structures can have on the environment.

Buildings account for 39 percent of the energy used in the United States, 71 percent of electricity use, and 39 percent of C02 emission. If all of the green-building measures were enacted, buildings would at least be comparable to the requirements of a silver rating under the LEED standards set by the USGBC. Builders should consider learning the CalGreen Code requirements now in order to be prepared for meeting them once they become mandatory.