It can be difficult for architects to make sustainable building goals a priority while coordinating with other disciplines in a project. An inability to navigate California’s Green Building Code (better known as CALGreen) could lead to unforeseen costs at the end of a project in an effort to meet the minimum code requirements. In order to maximize cost savings while building green, below are four things to keep in mind about CALGreen.

  • Tier Classification – CALGreen has established minimum code requirements for each of its code sections. Certain jurisdictions have implemented the use of CALGreen Tier 1 or Tier 2 electives through a conditional use permit, for example. Tier 1, has more stringent minimum code requirements such as higher expectations of energy efficiency and water consumption. Moving into Tier 2, you can expect even stricter requirements than those seen in Tier 1. For example, with a Tier 1 project, the code requires a reduction of overall potable water use within the building by 12%. In a Tier 2 project, however, the code requires a reduction of 20%.
  • Updates in CALGreen Code – Just as California’s Building and Energy Code continue to be updated, CALGreen does the same. The CALGreen code is updated on a triennial basis with the most recent edition being released on January 1st, 2020. There are also code updates that occur at the mid-point of each triennial cycle in order to modify or amend the existing code. Minor changes in code requirements, if not discussed early on in design development, could lead to unexpected expenditures to a project. In 2016, the code directed that MERV 8 air filters were required to be installed prior to occupancy for all residential and nonresidential buildings. In the 2019 code, however, MERV 13 air filters required are to be installed prior to occupancy.
  • City Specific CALGreen Code – CALGreen code is sometimes used as a baseline for cities to create a variation of their own code. For example, the City of Los Angeles has its own green building code specifically for the buildings in their city. Another example includes the City of Santa Cruz which has a green checklist composed of mandatory CALGreen measures and characteristics from LEED as well.
  • Bonus Item: CALGreen Commissioning – Building Commissioning for California’s Green Building Code only applies to new ground-up, nonresidential construction 10,000 sq. ft. or larger. The systems to be commissioned include renewable energy systems, landscape irrigation controllers, and water reuse systems.

The points mentioned are just a few of the obstacles architects might face when trying to work with California’s Green Building Code. VCA Green offers a team of CALGreen specialists in order to make working with CALGreen code simple. For more information on CALGreen consultation services, contact VCA Green below.

Contributing Writer: Jordan Venter, Project Administrator

Moe Fakih, Principal