California's New Green Rules Overview

by Loren Faulkner | September 28, 2010

“Each year in the U.S., we build approximately 5 billion square feet of new buildings and renovate approximately 5 billion square feet, but if the people constructing, renovating and operating those buildings aren't prepared to measure and reduce energy output according to government legislation, any new green construction and renovation can be considered futile,” says George Ahn, an expert in the field of Green Building codes.

Ahn is president and CEO of TRIRIGA, advising companies on how to start measuring, monitoring, and reducing their carbon emissions now so that their new construction projects meet government compliance standards for the future. The company uses an environmental management system that measures the carbon footprint of existing and new buildings.

Complex Regulations

California's new Green Codes can be viewed at, but the extensive regulation is going to require time investment by building contractors, owners and others to make sure they are compliant.

Ahn summarized the changes this way:

• The provisions of the California Building Code will apply to the construction, alteration, movement, enlargement, repair, use, maintenance removal, and demolition of virtually every building in California. 

• The code requires green building techniques – such as energy-efficiency measures; low- or non-volatile organic compound adhesives, paints and coatings; and high-efficiency air conditioning filters – for all new construction.

• The new standards become guidelines starting July 2009 and will incrementally become code requirements over the next three years.

• The new California code requires a detailed building operation and maintenance manual be made available at the time of occupancy to address occupants' behavior.

A few specific regulations include:

• The preservation of natural resources during building, retention of storm water drainage, and retention during construction.

• 100-percent integration of ENERGY STAR appliances and equipment; detailed energy monitoring (including sub-metering of specific appliances, and hourly tracking of energy use); strict testing during the construction process in terms of internal ventilation, indoor lighting systems and controls and water heating; providing exterior shade for south-facing windows and other sun-angle calculations; minimum energy performance or prescriptive standard design; energy-efficient steel framing, elevators and escalators; regulations on green concrete; and more.

• In short, there rules are going to have a significant impact on the way construction professionals build, and the next step is figuring out how to take action.

Interpreting and Managing

Ahn suggests building industry leaders get up to speed on knowing and managing the new regs now.

“When building and remodeling, builders, engineers, CEOs, and facilities managers all have to understand the importance of taking green construction to the next level – coupling it with technology that ensures sustainability and monitors a building's carbon emissions.

“Though the exact details around pending legislation are not yet set in stone, there's no doubt that companies are going to have to comply with the new laws, and that's what matters most,” he said. 

“The first step is to start measuring, and once you measure the impact of your buildings you can start taking steps to reduce. If building engineers, CEOs and managers are aware of both green construction and carbon footprint measuring technologies, the combination will be quitepowerful.”