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Making Green Mandatory

When California’s 2010 Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen) took effect in January, it was the first time sustainable design in the U.S. was a requirement for new construction of residential, commercial and public buildings. While the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® system has provided green-building guidelines for more than 20 years, CALGreen proponents say a voluntary system isn’t enough to reduce the negative environmental impact and encourage sustainable construction practices.

The comprehensive CALGreen code requires building new homes, commercial buildings, public schools and hospitals to a certifiable green standard, with no fees or third-party requirements for certification. California cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles already have their own green building standards, some of which go further than the CALGreen code.

The most important of CALGreen’s requirements include:

  • A 20% mandatory reduction of indoor water use
  • Water meters that separate indoor and outdoor water use, and moisture-sensitive irrigation systems for large landscaping
  • Diverting 50 percent of construction waste from landfills
  • Inspections of HVAC, among other energy systems (for nonresidential buildings of more than 10,000 square feet), to ensure they are working at their maximum efficiencies and manufacturer design specifications
  • Use of low-polluting interior finishes, such as paint and carpeting

CALGreen vs. LEED

Besides setting baseline mandatory standards, CALGreen also creates voluntary Tier One and Tier Two categories with stricter requirements for builders who want to define their buildings as "greener" than the minimum. Unlike LEED and other third-party certifications – which can require fees of $30,000 to $50,000 – the CALGreen code has no fees for certification; compliance is verified by local and state building departments as part of their enforcement of general building codes.

Proponents of CALGreen say the most important reason for establishing the mandatory sustainability program is that it sets base standards for encouraging green building at any level. While LEED raises the bar for the high end of green design – encouraging regenerative buildings and moving toward net-zero status for platinum certification by 2018 – CALGreen is designed to achieve major reductions in energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and water usage in all new buildings.

Lennox offers several high-efficiency systems developed for sustainable design, including the Energence® rooftop unit with the Prodigy® control system to provide verification the unit is working as intended.

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