California Issues Statewide Building Standards

California issued new statewide building standards that fall short of the strict standards environmental advocates sought, despite stated goals of reducing energy consumption by 15% and landscape watering by 50%, the LA Times reports.

The proposed green building code changes will initially be voluntary but become mandatory in 2010.

They are less stringent than those already in place in 75 California cities and counties, according to John Walser, director of policy and education for the Northern California chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. Governor Schwarzenegger’s staff made last-minute revisions so the state’s weaker standard doesn’t preempt these tougher regulations.

Under the new rules, localities can adopt tougher standards if they wish. But Nick Zigelbaum, an energy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says many localities will likely to see the new standard as a ceiling, instead of a floor to build upon.

"NRDC has many concerns regarding the stringency of this code and its market impacts," Zigelbaum says. "This code is a step forward for the state, creating a solid floor from which to build up; the really hard work is yet to come." 

California law requires the state to reduce global warming emissions 30% over the next 12 years.

Nationwide, buildings consume 39% of energy, 12% of potable water, and 40% of raw materials, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. They are responsible for 39% of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Building groups praised the new set of standards, while environmentalists said they will continue to raise the bar. 

Schwarzenegger aides also revised a section that gave equal weight to wood certified by industry groups as it did to wood certified as sustainably harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council. 

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