California Policy Corner: Greening the Capitol and advancing codes alignment | U.S. Green Building Council
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Catch up on the latest in California policy news.

Thanks to leadership from both the executive and legislative branches, the state of California’s public buildings stock has been carefully managed and upgraded to incorporate sustainability across much of their vast portfolio. At the helm has been Gov. Jerry Brown and his team at the Department of General Services, who have been outstanding in their leadership by example—saving energy, water and money and leveraging third-party certification via LEED for more than 100 projects.

And yet, in the decade or so since USGBC has been actively working in Sacramento on state policymaking, we’ve often inquired, “Why is the state Capitol not among the shining examples of sustainability excellence?” That question is now being answered, most recently by the Assembly Committee on Rules:

“California’s State Capitol Complex [comprises] two sections, the original (1860–1874) west wing, rebuilt for earthquake safety and brought up to modern fire safety codes (1975–1982) and the attached State Capitol Building Annex (1949–1952) which adjoins the historic wing on its east side. Together, these two structures comprise California’s 'People’s House,' the home to the Executive and Legislative branches of government.”

This is the introduction to the record that introduces big plans for the Capitol complex that, if approved, will include a very green Capitol building seeking LEED Silver certification. A hearing on February 21 began unpacking proposed plans for the project that “will strive to be among the most energy-efficient and sustainable Capitol buildings in the nation.”

What’s new in the codes

USGBC has developed a simple promotional flyer to help California developers understand the benefits of the new streamlined LEED compliance path for CALGreen projects. Download the flier, share with your networks (including building departments) and earn recognition today for the work you are already doing to comply with the CALGreen code.

Learn more about the California-LEED alignment and register your project.

The Energy Commission has issued notice of a public comment period for the 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards that will end at 5 p.m. on March 5, 2018. The proposed standards include extending provisions of the energy code to cover health care facilities and to make several updates to the energy sections of the CALGreen commercial and residential codes.

The CEC claims, “The proposed Standards take a crucial step in meeting the 2020 and 2030 zero net energy goals; if adopted, they will advance new residential buildings closer to achieving California’s goal of having all new residential buildings be zero net energy by 2020.” CEC estimates that the standards will deliver $3.8 billion in benefits statewide, at a cost of $2.1 billion.

Bills to watch

After the bill filing deadline of February 16, we’re beginning to see a set of bills emerge that could help significantly move the needle on green buildings and infrastructure. USGBC is watching the shortlist below, and will update it as conversations and context evolve.

In addition, we worked with Sen. Scott Wiener’s office to celebrate the re-introduction of his bill to expand on-site water recycling in California cities.

USGBC has also been following the development of the 2018 budget, particularly the work of Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s Subcommittee 3, which is making decisions on appropriations of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, now a far more stable source of funding for GHG reduction activities statewide, after last year’s extension of the cap-and-trade program until 2030.

Also on the horizon

The City of San Jose is considering an energy benchmarking ordinance and has invited USGBC to participate on the city’s task force to develop the recommendations. The task force kicked off on February 15, and on March 7, USGBC will help San Jose convene a benchmarking training workshop.

In addition, the 15th Annual Northern California Water Conservation Showcase is coming up on March 20 in San Francisco. USGBC Los Angeles will also be hosting the 17th Annual Municipal Green Building Conference and Expo on April 19 in Downey, California.