The emphasis on civic responsibility has seen many industries adopt the “Go Green” mantra enthusiastically. The California Green Building Standards Code, commonly referred to as “CalGreen” was brought into effect on August 1, 2009 to outline architectural design and engineering principles that are in synergy with environmental resources and public welfare. CalGreen is driven by the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, promote healthier environments to live in and prevent wastage of energy and water resources.

But first, let’s rewind back a bit and talk about where exactly CalGreen fits into the broader set of California regulations.

Simplifying CalGreen and Title 24: The California Code of Regulations (CCR) covers legal codes for a variety of administrative fields – such as education, law, crime prevention and public health. There are a total of 28 regulation titles pertaining to these different spheres of administrative governance. Title 24 is the California Buildings Standard Code. CalGreen code is Part 11 of this 13-part building code.

A project in Santa Rosa for which Design Everest provided the Title 24 Calculations
A project in Santa Rosa for which Design Everest provided the Title 24 Calculations

The Green Building concept: Green Building is a holistic approach towards design, engineering and construction that takes into account the building's impact on its environment. CalGreen aims to minimize the negative impacts by stipulating certain regulations throughout the buildings' lifecycle. It encourages sustainable construction practices in:

1) Planning and Design
2) Energy Efficiency
3) Water efficiency and conservation
4) Material Conservation and resource efficiency
5) Environmental Quality

CalGreen Covers both residential and non-residential buildings. There are separate code sections for low-rise and high-rise buildings.

Some common types of residential buildings covered are:

• Hotels, motels, lodging houses, dormitories
• Apartment buildings, condominiums, townhouses, employee housing
• One and two-family dwellings, homeless shelters, factory-built housing and other type of dwellings with sleeping accommodations.

Some common types of non-residential buildings covered are structures used for manufacturing, industrial factories (such as food-processing), and institutional facilities such as schools and assisted living facilities

CalGreen also includes provisions for any additions or alterations made after construction. A common alteration is replacing any current non-compliant plumbing fixtures with water-conserving ones.

Mandatory measures: CalGreen sets minimum standards for buildings, and since 2016, this applies to all new constructions, alterations/additions to increase a residential building's area/volume/size and nonresidential building additions of 1,000 square feet or greater and/or building alterations with a permit valuation of $200,000 or above (except tenant-space remodeling which does not alter the building shell or systems)

Some residential and non-residential mandatory measures are: 


You can find the entire list online of residential mandatory measures, brought into effect on January 1, 2017.

CalGreen is implemented by local architects and other design professionals by creating a CalGreen checklist of the measures. Here’s an actual checklist implemented by the city of Riverbank: Non-Residential Mandatory Checklist

Voluntary measures - A two-tiered approach
Local governments may opt for more restrictive regulations to achieve higher degree of compliance with Green Building principles. The need for these additional regulations may arise due to certain regional climatic, geological or topographical, or environmental conditions. This approach is adopted to achieve a further reduction in energy usage – surpassing the targets set through mandatory measures by 15-30%. Buildings complying with the latest edition of “Savings By Design, Healthcare Modeling Procedures” would achieve CalGreen Tier 1. According to the International Code Council, buildings must exceed the latest edition by 15% or more to achieve CalGreen Tier 2.

You can find the checklists for the residential voluntary measures here:
Tier 1 Residential Measures
Tier 2 Residential Measures

How does CalGreen compare with other code requirements?
Local jurisdictions can also implement other codes such as GreenPoint ratings or LEED requirements. However, unlike other codes, CalGreen is a mandatory state-wide applicable-code which can have voluntary two-tiered measures enforced by your local authorities. CalGreen mandatory measures are not as rigid as the other codes.

CalGreen compliance is enforced through
Construction documents, plans, specifications, builder or installer certification, and inspection reports. The International Code Council (ICC) offers a CALGreen Certification Exam for inspectors and plan reviewers. The exam covers all general requirements of CalGreen and tests for an understanding of the code and ability to implement its provisions.
  • http://www.bsc 2016_Savings_by_Design_Healthcare_Baseline_Study_Final.pdf [6] 

*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.


You must have an account to comment on the post. Register with us if you are an AEC professional!

Get A Free Consultation