New state building codes leave local businesses, officials a bit queasy.
There’s “green,” the color of environmentally friendly, and then there’s green, the color of queasiness. On Friday, Dec. 10, both definitions were observed during a seminar on the new mandatory 2010 California Green Building Code (GBC), or CALGreen Title 24, Chapter 11, which takes effect on Jan. 1.
Sponsored by Mono County, and co-sponsored by the Eastern Sierra Energy Initiative, the Town of Mammoth Lakes and Cerro Coso Community College, more than 60 contractors, architects, designers, public works planners and building inspectors from both Inyo and Mono counties attended the day-long class at Cerro Coso in Mammoth, wading into almost 200 pages of new Green Building definitions, mandatory measures, standards, inspector qualifications, and compliance forms.
Seminar presenter Tony Elmo from Interwest Consulting Group was frank with everyone in the room. “A lot of extra work and care has to go into your projects,” he advised attendees. “Everything is changing,” Elmo said, from from paint to carpet to landscaping, from design to review and final inspection.”
Residential: Water consumption and landscaping irrigation must achieve a 20% reduction by July 1, 2011. Indoors, that means installing effiicient fixtures, shower heads and toilets; outdoors, smart controller systems and other saving measures may be needed. Good news: smart controllers should be able to meet the new requirements, are fairly affordable and often come with rebates.
Contractors now also have to document that at least 50% of all non-hazardous waste is either recycled or reclaimed. A contruction waste plan will have to be included along with other building plans.
The GBC imposes more stringent regulations on dust and duct work, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and new California Air Resources Board (CARB) low-emission standards for paint and carpeting.
Numerous “standard practices” that until now have been done as a matter of course, such as surface grading to prevent water from running into buildings, will now have to be included in building plans.
Non-residential business and industrial: “Commissioning,” essentially the building equivalent of a shakedown cruise for seagoing vessels, is a must for new buildings 10,000 square feet or larger. Other new requirements: bicycle parking and rider changing rooms. Buildings with occupancies of 10 persons or more must allot bicycle parking that equals at least 5% of motorized parking spaces, and have secure, covered and lockable enclosure for such bikes.
And designated parking for “low-emission” and “fuel-efficient” vehicles, with signage that denotes “Clean Air Vehicle Parking Only,” a la current disabled parking requirements.
As if all that upfront work isn’t enough, new residential and non-residential codes require the builder to provide new owners with an operational manual with educational materials on new green features and how to use any new systems, as well as information on local recycling programs and mass transit, and copies of final inspection documents.
(The state skillfully avoided any mention of how many trees will be needed to provide all that paperwork no one is likely to read anyway.)
And the industry shouldn’t expect to hit the ground running on Jan. 1. Many forms, templates and guidelines are still being created by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
How much is all this going green going to cost? At this point, the answer is, “Who knows?” And apparently from the state’s perspective, that answer goes more to, “Who cares?”
As High Sierra Energy Foundation Executive Director Rick Phelps pointed out, “Energy efficiency is regulated by the California Energy Commisssion and has to be shown to be cost-effective. Green building is regulated by the California Building Standards Commission, and doesn’t have to be cost-effective, just ‘green.’”
The GBC’s preface says, “A city, county, or city and county may establish more restrictive standards reasonably necessary because of local climatic, geological or topographical conditions.” That, however, reportedly can be offset by a provision allowing local and county officials to have jurisdiction over their own areas.
The hitch here is that they may have to make sure they’ve drafted sound arguments to back up any opt-out decisions, as the state reserves the right to challenge and potentially overrule localities.