The growing bipartisan appeal of clean and efficient energy programs was evident as major environmental and business interests praised California's move to adopt what state officials are touting as the nation's first statewide "green" building code. The California Building Standards Commission said it acted at the direction of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Within hours of the announcement, groups including the California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber) and the Building Owners and Managers Association of California (BOMA) released statements supporting the action.
Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair at the U.S. Green Building Council, which was founded to improve building standards nationally, praised California's green code, stressing that commercial buildings throughout the nation offer the "best opportunity to reduce energy use and carbon dioxide [CO2] emissions." Greening of buildings needs to be a top priority in any efforts to reverse the impact of global climate change, he said.
California Chamber CEO Allan Zaremberg said there is still "much work" to be done with the new regulations, but he called their creation "a sound framework from which to focus future regulatory efforts because it is important that innovations in green building [construction] are not sabotaged by state mandates." Zaremberg added that CalChamber and the state's business community support green building standards generally, and they are "actively engaged in proliferation of the technology" driving more efficiency in the construction, operations and maintenance of buildings.
California's standards are optional for now and will become mandatory in 2010. The "adjustment period," will allow industry and enforcement agencies to prepare for, and comply with, the standards, officials said. The green code will be updated annually to reflect technological advances.
Building standards panel head Rosario Marin said the latest action allows California once again to be "leading the nation and the world in emissions reductions, and finding new ways to expand climate change [mitigation] efforts." To accomplish this, he said, the building commission had to bring the major stakeholders together -- construction/building trades representatives, environmental groups and labor organizations.
The code goes beyond current building standards, which are among the toughest in the nation, targeting a 50% landscape water conservation goal and an additional 15% or more reduction in energy use beyond current standards, Marin said.
Schwarzenegger called it "literally a groundbreaking move," ensuring that each time a building is started it will be conceived, built and operated in the more energy efficient and environmentally benign manner.
"Cars and buildings are two of the leading users of energy," Schwarzenegger said. "We're already addressing cars, and these new building standards will ensure that California remains at the forefront of reducing our carbon footprint and conserving valuable natural resources while also protecting our economy."
In addition to the standards, the governor has directed the state-owned buildings to reduce energy use by 20% by 2015, and new state construction and major renovation projects should meet the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver certification criteria.
According to the nonprofit building council, buildings nationwide account for 70% of electricity consumed in the nation and 39% of energy use, along with 12% of potable water consumption, 40% of raw materials used, and 30% of waste output (136 million tons annually), resulting in the production of 39% of associated greenhouse gas emissions.
"As building codes evolve, it's also important to ensure that individual builders and communities are free to reach for even higher levels of performance," Fedrizzi said. "By specifying that they will in no way preempt local authorities from continuing to lead by example, the new standards adopted unanimously are an important step for moving California's buildings to a higher level of performance."
The founder and principal in a San Diego-based, LEED-certified design firm, Pedro Tavares, with R&S Tavares Associates, said the green standards are "long overdue," and they are more than just "good ideas; they're common sense." Tavares said the standards will help protect resources and promote "a healthier learning environment" while tackling real problems facing the construction industry.
BOMA President Rob Cord, a managing director with commercial real estate company Kennedy Wilson, said the standards are a good example of public- and private-sector entities working together to keep California as a leader in advancing green building techniques.
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