Contributor JT Long recently wrote a blog about the state’s new Calgreen requirements:

When Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the new 2010 Statewide Green Building Standards Code - or Calgreen - on Jan. 12, he hailed it as a “first-in-the-nation” mandatory requirement to use “environmentally-advanced building practices that decrease waste, reduce energy use and conserve resources.”

Adoption of the measure by California Building Standards Commission turns some of the voluntary guidelines in Calgreen 2008 into requirements that go into effect starting Jan. 1, 2011. That is when every new building constructed in California must reduce water consumption by 20%, divert 50% of construction waste from landfills and install low pollutant-emitting materials. It also requires separate water meters for nonresidential buildings’ indoor and outdoor water use, with a requirement for moisture-sensing irrigation systems for larger landscape projects and mandatory efficiency inspections of energy systems for nonresidential buildings over 10,000 sq ft. Another addition is the requirement that schools conform to the conservation measures.

The governor pointed to a California Air Resources Board estimate that the mandatory provisions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million metric tons equivalent in 2020.

“These are measures that were already being incorporated into large projects in San Francisco and Los Angeles, but now the other 90% of the state will have to change the way they do business,” says Dave Wells, California Building Standards Commission executive director.

Edward Kweskin, a vice president in the San Clemente office of Cannon Constructors South, agreed with Wells. “From a code perspective, this is not that much of a change; a lot of the energy requirements were cloned from Title 24.” The measures that went above and beyond existing requirements Kweskin called “just good business.”

The code change included an attractive carrot. Tiered voluntary stretch goals, including cool roof provisions and additional water savings could earn projects special recognition. Upon passing state building inspection, property owners can label their facilities as Calgreen-compliant. Some warned the state guidelines could eliminate the need for burdensome, expensive third-party certification programs such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification system, and Build It Green, which have been the silver, gold and platinum standard developers used to set their buildings apart.

These two groups opposed the voluntary tiered structure because, according to a statement by Build It Green Executive Director Catherine Merschel, “there is still much work needed to refine and implement the code including measure definition, education to affected parties and clear strategies to reconcile and understand how the code relates to the growing number of municipal green building ordinances based on established third-party verified green building programs.” Still, Merschel said she supported the concept and looks forward to working with the state to create a clear pathway to building green homes.

Kweskin, who is a member of the USGBC Orange County board, calls Calgreen standards “LEED-light” and didn’t think it would be competition because tenants would still want to occupy buildings that could prove they had met the highest standards for conservation. “This is still a work in progress,” Kweskin says.

Michael Malinowski, president of Applied Architecture, Inc., welcomed the green marketing competition. “No company has a copyright on green,” Malinowski says. He didn’t consider the standards to be “transformational,” but says they could still have a positive effect.

Even if Calgreen doesn’t have a measurable impact, “it increases public awareness, which is good,” Malinowski says. “It helps provide a common language.”