Taking a new step toward widespread green practice implementation, California’s Building Standards Commission (BSC) unanimously adopted the United States’ first statewide green building code. With more adoptions to be added shortly before the final copy is published, California HVAC contractors have a little time to plan new business strategies that will help builders reduce the energy usage and carbon footprints of new and existing structures as required by the new codes. As California leads the way, the rest of the nation watches for the successes and the failures of these new standards that are likely to filter into the daily business practices of contractors across the nation.
Last year in October, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to sign Assembly Bill 1058, citing that some of the national standards in the bill could potentially place Californians at risk. “Additionally, building standards should not be statutory,” his letter said. “The Building Standards Commission was created to ensure an open, public adoption process, allowing experts to develop standards and periodic updates to the building codes.”
Schwarzenegger further clarified his position in the final statement of his letter, issuing a new directive to the BSC. “It is imperative to expedite the greening of California’s building standards,” he explained. “As such, I am directing the California Building Standards Commission to work with specified state agencies on the adoption of green building standards for residential, commercial, and public building construction for the 2010 code adoption process.”
With this new directive, the BSC began the process of enhancing and creating new green building codes. These codes surpass the current building standards and are intended to deliver significant improvements in water and energy usage. According to a press release issued in July 2008, the new codes push builders to reduce the energy use of their structures by 15 percent more than current standards.
“The new standards declare the minimum California will accept in environmentally friendly design - local jurisdictions and builders who wish to do more are applauded.”
The new code contains standards for single-family homes, health facilities, and commercial buildings. It is also composed of optional standards that will become mandatory in the 2010 edition of the code. After 2010, the California Green Building Standards Code will be updated on an annual basis to ensure that the latest technology and methods of construction have been incorporated to always maintain a high level of standards.
In a statement issued by Gov. Schwarzenegger, he pointed out that cars and buildings are two of the leading users of energy. “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.
“By adopting this first-in-the-nation statewide green building code, California is again leading the way to fight climate change and protect the environment,” he applauded. “This is literally a groundbreaking move to ensure that when we break ground on all new buildings in the Golden State, we are promoting green building and energy-efficient technologies.”
ACCA PARTICIPATESThe Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) association has taken a strong interactive role with the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) as the state worked on creating a new, long-term energy-efficiency strategic plan. Russell King, P.E., ACCA’s director of the newly opened West Coast office in Sacramento, Calif., sits on the advisory committee to the California BSC that reviews this code language.
“Currently, no HVAC requirements are identified within the body of the standard,” said King. “However, it is anticipated that the energy-efficiency initiatives being developed by CPUC and CEC will be referenced in this document.”
According to King, these provisions imply that contractors need to follow recognized standards and good practices to ensure that properly sized and selected HVAC equipment are correctly installed in varied building applications. He also pointed out that waste products are to be minimized, which includes the proper handling, use, and disposal of refrigerants and lubricants.
“Having standardized green building codes levels the playing field for builders and subcontractors and improved understanding and appreciation by the general public,” King explained.
The BSC is currently waiting on other new adoptions to be completed before it publishes all of the new codes, which will be effective 180 days after publication. It expects to see the final codes effective no later than mid-spring to early July of 2009.