Green Building Construction and Operations
When the Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential and Non-residential Buildings, otherwise known as the California Energy Code or Title 24 Part 6 of the California Code of Regulations, were established in 1978, more than 72% of the state’s existing 13 million residential buildings were built before this code was implemented. On top of that, there are commercial structures standing in over 5 billion square feet of California land.
What this signifies is that at least 3 out of 4 structures in California never had to comply with any energy efficiency requirements, creating little impact to the State’s mandate of reducing energy consumption. Over the years that followed, there are new and more effective energy efficiency technologies and procedures developed, which can present the greatest opportunities and impact when applied to green building construction and operations in both new and existing buildings in California .
Now, California has rolled out one of the most stringent building codes in the country in terms of reducing environmental impact and has mandated adherence by all new residential and commercial buildings including shopping malls, schools, and hospitals. CAL Green, as the new code is named, has taken effect immediately right from the start of the year 2011 and the state has taken sufficient measures to ensure that all policies are adhered to in the coming periods.
Understanding Green Building Certifications
Companies as well as private individuals interested in green building construction and operations need to have a clear understanding of the basics of the various different programs available in this area. Knowing so can open their enterprises or their homes to all the potential grants and funding opportunities available to them. These green building programs include:
  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) – LEED is internationally recognized and has been at the forefront in providing the practical guidelines for green building construction and operations. This program was created and initiated by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED consists of nine rating systems for the design, construction, and operation of buildings, homes, and communities.
  • Energy Star – This program is focused not so much on the construction side but gives more emphasis on energy use, particularly on standards for energy efficient consumer products. The program is spearheaded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy. Basically an Energy Star certified homes or buildings are at least 20 to 30 percent more efficient than standard structures and should also be 15 percent more efficient than the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC) standard. Although certification lasts only a year, the process is not cumbersome and is provided free.
  • Green Globes – Operated by the Green Building Initiative, this certification program was based from a Canadian protocol and offers a unique, easy to use, and affordable online assessment and rating system for new constructions as well as existing homes and buildings.
  • National Green Building Standard – This certification is focused on green building construction and operations for residential areas. There are four levels of certification available including Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Emerald. Under this certification, homes should have the following categories incorporated either with a new construction or renovations.
Green Building Standards – California Style
Starting this year, California has implemented its new green building code named CALGreen, featuring a host of new regulations that would speed up the process for the state to meet its environmental goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million metric tons by the year 2020. These new codes is mandatory for all new residential and non-residential structures with green building measures enforced by January 2011 and water measures by July 2011. CALGreen requires builders and designers to incorporate the following standards and requirements:
  • Mandatory indoor water use reduction by 20 percent. Additional reductions of 30 percent, 35 percent and 40 percent are voluntary goals.
  • Non-residential buildings shall have separate meters for indoor and outdoor water use. It is also required to use moisture-sensing irrigation systems for large landscaped areas.
  • Mandatory 50% of construction wastes should be diverted from landfills. For voluntary diversion, new homes should have a goal between 65 to 75 percent while commercial structures should be 80 percent.
  • Inspections of energy systems including cooling and heating systems and other mechanical equipments are mandatory for non-residential buildings that are built larger than 10 thousand square feet.
  • Interior finish materials should be low-emitting from pollutant materials. This includes paint, vinyl floorings, particle boards, and carpets.
Aside from CAL Green, California also legislated AB1103 which requires commercial building owners to disclose the energy data and rating information for a particular building to prospective buyers, lessees and financers. This legislation aims to motivate property owners to improve the buildings energy efficiency performance.
Other California legislation related to green building construction and operation included a law banning the energy-consuming 100-watt incandescent bulbs and implemented this a year ahead of the federal standard. The federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 bans the use of these bulbs by the year 2012, but with California making a move a year ahead, the state is already expecting up to $35.6 million in savings from their electricity use.