It’s been a banner week for environmental policy as the California Building Standards Commission recently broke news of the nation’s first statewide green building code. The measure mandates significant improvements in energy efficiency and water consumption in all new construction throughout the state. The announcement was fore-grounded by April’s ambitious LA green building law and comes hot on the heels of Al Gore’s historic appeal last week for a carbon-free US energy policy.

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The unanimously approved measure will update California’s current building code to address a variety of goals including reducing water usage in residential and commercial structures by 20% and cutting water used in landscaping by 50%. Hopefully this will encourage the widespread proliferation of techniques such as rainwater harvesting, drought resistant landscaping, and graywater reuse.

The new code also aims to cut the energy usage of all new structure by 15% and advocates the use of recycled and eco-friendly materials in construction as well as “flooring, carpeting, paint, coatings, thermal insulation and acoustic wall and ceiling panels”.

Commission Char Rosario Marin has stated: “Once again California is leading the nation and the world in emissions reductions and finding new ways to expand our climate change effort . . . The commission should be commended for bringing everyone to the table including representatives of the construction and building trades industry, environmental groups and labor organizations, and achieving something no other state has been able to.”

A grace period will render the new code optional until 2010 so that industry and enforcement agencies have time to prepare for the new building standards. After that point the measure is expected to become mandatory and will hopefully inspire similar initiatives throughout the US.

+ California Building Standards Commission

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San Francisco Image Credit: Patrick Boury