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Greener California

08-12-2008 11:28 PM CET | Industry, Real Estate & Construction

Press release from: Wang Law Firm

On July 17, 2008, the California Building Standards Commission unanimously adopted the green building standards for all new construction statewide. This decision is the first of its kind in the nation to incorporate green building standards into the building codes.

The California Green Buildings Standards Code is expected to be published at the end of 2008. It will be published as Part 11 of the 2007 edition of California Code of Regulations, Title 24 (California Building Standards Code), will become effective 180 days after publication or a later stipulated date. It includes standards for planning and design, energy efficiency, water efficiency and conservation, material conservation and resource efficiency, and environmental quality. The code covers new residential and commercial construction in the private and public sectors, including single-family homes, hotels, apartments, condominiums, schools, dormitories, and health care facilities.

The standards will be voluntary until they become mandatory in the 2010 edition of the California Green Building Standards Code. Thereafter, the code will be updated annually to incorporate the latest construction methods and technology. The voluntary period is intended to provide the construction industry and local government entities time to adapt, comply with, and test the new measures.

The code sets the minimum floor, not a ceiling. It does not preempt local government entities to adopt more stringent standards, as set forth in the language below.

101.7 “This code does not limit the authority of city, county, or city and county governments to make necessary changes to the provisions contained in this code . . .”

In terms of planning and design, evaluation and careful planning need to be exercised for preservation and use of available natural resources. Among other measures, a plan to manage storm water drainage during construction shall be implemented to prevent flooding of adjacent property, prevent erosion and retain soil runoff on the site.

To improve energy efficiency, the code includes both a performance and prescriptive approach. The performance approach sets the energy efficiency target of a minimum 15 percent. The prescriptive approach indicates the various measures necessary to achieve the desired energy reduction level, including, if available, the use of ENERGY STAR appliances and the use of a pre-programmed demand response system capable of reducing the peak HVAC demand and total lighting load through dimming control or bi-level switching. Also for energy efficiency, the code calls for protection of the building from thermal loss, drafts, degradation of the building envelope caused by wind and wind-driven materials such as dust, sand, snow, and leaves with building orientation and landscape features.

For water efficiency, the code enumerates many measures of creating and analyzing water efficiency including the installation of separate meters or sub-meters for indoor and outdoor water use, dual plumbing for potable and recycled water systems for toilet flushing when recycled water is available, and a water efficient irrigation design that reduces by 50% the use of potable water beyond the initial landscape installation and establishment.

For material conservation and resource efficiency, the code calls for the use of environmentally friendly materials such as bio-based products made from solid wood, engineering wood, bamboo, products made from crops (soy-based, corn-based) and other bio-based products with at least 50% bio-based content, as well as the use of renewable or reusable materials.

With regard to environmental quality, several measures are included in the code to control indoor moisture and improve indoor air quality. To control indoor moisture, concrete slab foundation is required to have a vapor retarder, while building materials with visible signs of water damage shall not be installed. For indoor air quality, one measure is the installation of a mechanical exhaust fan in each room containing a bathtub, shower, or tub/shower combination, and permanent carbon dioxide monitoring equipment that can be adjusted based upon human occupancy.

All the measures if acted upon are expected to be comparable to the requirements of a “silver rating” under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

If there are any questions regarding the foregoing, please contact Kenneth Wang, Esq. at Wang Law Firm, One Park Plaza, Suite 600, Irvine, CA 92614, 949-852-7381,

Wang Law Firm
One Park Plaza, Suite 600
Irvine, CA 92614

A law firm which specializes in construction law and professional liability, including the representation of owners, contractors, architects and engineers in breach of contract issues, construction defect, delay claims, cost over-run, and change orders. Wang Law Firm also represents real estate professionals in real estate matters.

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