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The 2010 California Green Building Code

Sustainable Building: The New Industry Standard in California


At Hughes Marino Construction Management, we manage 40-50 construction projects each year with total value typically exceeding $80 Million. In other words, we manage a lot of construction year in and year out, and as a result we spend a lot of time at the city planning department. We generally know what to expect from plan checkers during the permit review process. Now there is a new wrinkle – the 2010 California Green Building Code. The CALGreen Code requirements will now be included in all plan checker’s comments starting January of 2013 for all projects that fall within the “threshold” described below.

This article will provide a broad overview of the new requirements which are now being implemented at every city and county building department. We expect the CALGreen Code adoption to be similar to the challenging experience that the industry went through when implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is imperative that the design, construction and real estate industry professionals educate themselves with the CALGreen Code and how it will affect future construction projects.

CALGreen Development Timeline

Prior to 2008, the California Buildings Standards Commission (CBSC) worked closely with the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Department of General Services (DGS), the Division of State Architects (DSA), and the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) to review the existing green building standards as well as the current practices. Unlike the private non-profit organization known as the US Green Building Council and their LEED certification process, the CALGreen code was a collaborative, governmental initiative, and it is now the nation’s first statewide green building standards code. In other words, it is now the law.

Initially the 2008 Code had optional and voluntary requirements, but local and state jurisdictions adopted a revised Code in 2010 at the State level with the requirements scheduled to take effect in January 2011. Following this adoption of the code in 2010, supplemental CALGreen standards were introduced, which now affect all tenant improvement and project additions within the specific threshold. At this point, design and construction firms began to take notice.

As of January 2013, all city and county plan reviewers are required to include the CALGreen Code requirements in their plan check reviews on a permanent and consistent basis.

The 2010 CALGreen Threshold

The requirements stated in the 2010 CALGreen Code are mandatory if your project meets any one of the following criteria:

Any project, regardless of height, that meets the following criteria, must adhere to the CALGreen Code requirements:

  • Privately owned building,
  • State-owned building (including those in the CSU or UC system),
  • Public elementary, and secondary school,
  • Community college regulated by the Division of State Architects (DSA),
  • Qualified historical building and structure,
  • Hospital, skilled nursing center, and facilities license; and,
  • Residential buildings of four or more stories.

Tenant improvement projects that exceed the following:

  • Have a construction budget equal to, or greater than, $500,000.00; or,
  • An addition that is greater than 2,000 square feet.

What specifics might your local city or county plan checker be looking for? The answer to this question falls into three categories: Landlord, Designer and Consultant Team, and General Contractor Potential Requirements. A few of the CALGreen Code requirements are listed below:

Landlord: Potential Requirements

  • Provide bicycle racks related to Visitor Parking onsite,
  • Provide bicycle racks related to Employee Parking onsite,
  • Provide parking for “Clean Air / Carpool / Electric Vehicles,”
  • Provide separate water meters for high water users
  • Avoid site lighting trespass (beyond property lines)
  • Provide “Smart Meters” for landscaping
  • Locate central recycling area for all occupants of the project
  • Remove older equipment that contains “CFCs” (chlorofluorocarbon) or “Halon”

Design Team: Potential Requirements

  • Select plumbing fixtures that save a minimum of 20% in water use
  • Select plumbing fixtures that save a minimum of 20% in wastewater use
  • Identify spaces for recycling both inside and outside the project for occupants; and
  • Design new interior and exterior partitions that meet the required acoustical values

General Contractor: Potential Requirements

  • Provide preconstruction pricing
  • Implement a SWPP Plan (Storm Water Pollution Prevention)
  • Implement a Construction Waste Management Plan
  • Recycle excavated top-soil onsite (The soil cannot be removed from the site)
  • Replace HVAC filters prior to building occupancy
  • Cover all ducts and HVAC equipment during construction

What about LEED?

Previously, anyone seeking to design and construct an environmentally sustainable project had the option to either pursue LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification or follow the optional CALGreen Code Requirements. Now, according to LEEDs first MPR (Minimum Program Requirement), all projects must comply with all local, state, and federal environmental laws. Certain mandatory environmental requirements outlined in the CALGreen Code will now supersede those found within the current LEED Certification criteria. Previously, a project owner might choose to pursue LEED certification, now many of those same design elements are mandatory, and this could lead to a reduced incentive to pursue LEED certification. Conversely, due to the fact that some of the CALGreen Code requirements exceed, or parallel those of LEED Certification, it could make LEED Certification more readily accessible on some projects. Time will tell whether CALGreen does in fact drive more projects to pursue LEED certification.

Having an experienced construction manager is critical to making sure the CALGreen Code requirements are properly accounted for when evaluating the real estate requirements for your business. At Hughes Marino CM, we understand these new code requirements and how they should be covered in your lease or purchase contracts, as well as included in your project’s design and construction planning. We wholeheartedly understand how you as a business owner aim to minimize your risk and maximize your project’s value.

Nik Bandak is a vice president for Hughes Marino, an award-winning commercial real estate company specializing in project management, tenant representation and building purchases, with offices across the nation. Contact Nik at 1-844-662-6635 or nik@hughesmarino.com to learn more.



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