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California approves mandatory green building code

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New York City California had approved the most stringent, environmentally friendly building code standards of any state in the nation.

The new code, dubbed Calgreen, was approved Tuesday and will take effect next January. It requires builders to install plumbing that cuts indoor water use, divert 50% of construction waste from landfills to recycling, use low-pollutant paints, carpets and floorings and, in nonresidential buildings, install separate water meters for different uses.

It mandates the inspection of energy systems by local officials to ensure that heaters, air conditioners and other mechanical equipment in nonresidential buildings are working efficiently. It will also allow local jurisdictions, such as San Francisco, to retain their stricter existing green building standards, or adopt more stringent versions of the state code if they choose.

The code was supported by a wide range of building industry and realty associations, as well as the state Chamber of Commerce. Industry officials said that it would increase construction costs only slightly.

The regulations were opposed by several private organizations that offer construction rating systems, including the U.S. Green Building Council, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Elizabeth Echols of the U.S. Green Building Council's Northern California chapter said her group is most concerned with the provision of the code that would allow cities and counties to adopt more stringent standards, which she said could result in confusion for builders, local governments and the public, the report said. She rejected the notion, suggested by several speakers at the meeting, that her group was simply trying to protect its market share by discouraging a competing verification system.

State officials said the regulations create a single comprehensive code, clearing up confusion over varying regulations, and it allows builders to receive green certification without paying a third party.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the new regulations, saying the new rules will help the Golden State reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve 33% renewable energy by 2020.

“With this first-in-the nation mandatory green building standards code, California continues to pave the way in energy efficiency and environmental protection," Schwarzenegger said. "Today's action lays the foundation for the move to greener buildings constructed with environmentally advanced building practices that decrease waste, reduce energy use and conserve resources."

© 2014