See the latest in California policy and advocacy news.

New standards require solar

Moving to cut energy use in new homes by more than 50 percent, the California Energy Commission has adopted energy-efficient building standards that will require solar photovoltaic systems starting in 2020. The standards, which are the first in the nation to require solar, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to taking 115,000 gas-fueled cars off the road.

Met with enthusiasm by sustainability advocates, this new standard has some building industry critics suggesting it may add more cost to building homes in California—already one of the most expensive states to build in. It was also met with critiques from housing affordability advocates, who noted that adding an extra $15,000 to $30,000 to the price of the home for solar systems could price out some buyers.

Green Hard Hat Awards

The USGBC Northern California community held its annual Green Hard Hat Awards on June 28, recognizing policy leaders at the local and state government level who drive California’s vision of healthy, efficient and high-performing buildings. The event was held at the zero energy, zero water and LEED Platinum headquarters of ArchNexus in Sacramento. 

This year’s Green Hard Hat recipients:

  • California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols
  • Mayor of Sacramento Darrell Steinberg
  • Senior Advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown on Infrastructure and Energy Dan Carol
  • International Code Council Executive Director of Sustainability Programs David Walls
  • California Assemblymember for District 18 Rob Bonta

USGBC works closely with these and many other state leaders and partners to achieve our mission of transforming the way our buildings and communities are designed, constructed and operated to enable a more sustainable California and a greener world.

View the list of Green Hard Hat award recipients from the past several years.

Reducing carbon in Los Angeles

On June 7, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced at the International Mayors Climate Summit at Boston University that the City of Los Angeles has committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This new target—a major step forward from the city’s previous commitment of an 80 percent reduction by 2050—is the most ambitious effort yet by Los Angeles to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Just how large is L.A.’s carbon footprint? A new study, along with a global gridded mapping tool, has been released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In studying 13,000 cities, the authors learned that many cities' carbon footprints are up to 60 percent larger than they realize, due to imported emissions from goods and products produced elsewhere.

For example, Los Angeles is ranked fifth globally, and second in the U.S. (behind New York City), for carbon emissions. However, concerted action by L.A. local government can have significant effects. The city has already made big moves in electrification of transportation through purchasing policies for new fleets and creative electric vehicle purchasing and car-sharing programs.

How we will reduce carbon emissions in the buildings sector? The Existing Buildings Energy and Water Efficiency policy, along with AB802, requires benchmarking of buildings in addition to retrofit activities. There remain many buildings beyond those covered by these policies; however, including residential buildings, entertainment industry buildings and commercial buildings under 20,000 square feet.

Arc may be the answer for these existing buildings, as a tool to establish carbon baselines and to suggest ways for building owners to improve their score over time. In fact, LEED for Cities may be the instrument by which the City of Los Angeles can meet its carbon neutrality goal by 2050. Connecting all the actions taken for energy, water, waste, transportation and indoor environmental quality in one dashboard that can show real-time progress could be a powerful tool for policymakers, building owners and utilities as we march toward 2050.

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