Cities and counties are essential partners in California's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Many California municipalities have enacted policies, ordinances, and guidelines that mandate or encourage sustainable (or “green”) building in commercial and residential developments to increase energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions. Local governments have the authority to establish standards that go beyond the minimum requirements in the California Green Building (CALGreen) code because of local climatic, geological, or topographical conditions.
These “beyond code” efforts are basically measures that can be adopted as mandatory at the local level, but that are more progressive than the minimum energy efficiency requirements in statewide building codes, and there are three basic variations:
- Energy efficiency measures that exceed statewide standards. In some cases, cities are adopting ordinances that exceed the statewide Energy Code efficiency targets by as much as thirty percent. You can find information on local agencies that have adopted energy ordinances from the California Energy Commission.
- Holistic green building standards. Many cities and counties have adopted ordinances that require 3rd-party certification of green building standards, such as LEED or GreenPoint Rated, that encompass energy efficiency as well as many other green building measures (water, wastewater, etc.).
- Building electrification.Local governments across California are pursuing reach codes to encourage building electrification. Over 30 local governments are already pursuing or actively considering electric-preferred or all-electric reach codes in PG&E’s service territory alone. Local government action will have a significant impact on declining gas use and expanding building electrification.
Many green building programs exist to evaluate and rate energy efficiency and environmental performance of buildings. Most of these systems are voluntary programs that have a strong presence within the building design communities.
Below are several of the more well-recognized green building rating systems:
- The US Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program is a nationally accepted rating system that provides a whole building approach to certification of new and existing green buildings that cover design, construction and operations.
- The International Living Future Institute developed the Living Building Challenge, which certifies actual performance to achieve zero-carbon and regenerative performance.
- Build It Green (BIG) administers the GreenPoint Rated residential green building rating program with a California focus.
- The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) offers a green building certification program geared towards California schools.