A New Spin on Efficiency and Environmental Responsability

California’s Building Standards Commission (CBSC) has adopted a mandatory Green Building Standards Code (CALGREEN), which is designed to improve energy efficiency and environmental responsibility for new buildings. CALGREEN, which is believed to be the first such code of its kind in the United States, is scheduled to take effect in January 2011.

CALGREEN will require that every new building constructed in California reduce water consumption by 20 percent, divert 50 percent of construction waste from landfills, and install low pollutant-emitting materials. The code also compels 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 inspections of energy systems (e.g., heat furnace, air conditioner, and mechanical equipment) for nonresidential buildings exceeding 10,000 square feet to ensure that all are working at their maximum capacity and according to their design efficiencies.

The code requires a 15 percent reduction in energy use compared with what is required in the current California standard Title 24 Part 6, which already exceeds the national model energy code. The code also requires the use of Energy Star appliances.

“The national model energy code and the current California energy code (T24 Part 6) do not address appliance efficiency, so this is a nice addition to boost energy efficiency in residential buildings,” Building Codes Assistance Project (BCAP) Senior Outreach Manager Cosimina Panetti told GBI. “[Overall,] the code appears to be well thought out and executed.”

Upon passing a state building inspection, a California property owner will have the ability to label a facility as CALGREEN compliant without using additional third-party certification programs.

The California Air Resources Board estimated that the mandatory provisions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide equivalent) by three million metric tons equivalent in 2020.

Sustainability Reports Scenarios

Although published in 2002, this report from BNIM examines the cost-effectiveness of living buildings.

Sustainability Report

raellogo1Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory

“Understanding and Exploring the Future of our World’s Energy”

Berkeley has put together this “how to” renewable energy financing guide.  A number of cities across the U.S. are launching programs to finance renewable energy and energy efficiency upgrades for homes and businesses. RAEL is supporting these efforts through research, consulting, and the creation of educational tools.


The American Wind Association

compiled in September 2008 a convenient guide titled: In the Public InterestHow and Why to Permit for Small Wind Systems – A Guide for State and Local Governments

It provides clear and useful information on small scale wind turbines and help on the permitting process.

sow2009State of the World 2009

“will undoubtedly influence the negotiators from different countries to look beyond the narrow and short-term concerns that are far too often the reason for inaction.” R.K. Pachauri, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

New Year’s Day, 2101. Somehow, humanity survived the worst of global warming—the higher temperatures and sea levels and the more intense droughts and storms—and succeeded in stabilizing the Earth’s climate. Greenhouse gas concentrations are peaking and are expected to drift downward in the 22nd century. The rise in global temperatures is slowing and the natural world is gradually healing. The social contract largely held. And humanity as a whole is better fed, healthier, and more prosperous today than it was a century ago.

This scenario of an imagined future raises a key question: What must we do in the 21st century—especially in 2009 and the years just following—to make such a future possible, and to head off the kind of climate catastrophe that many scientists now see as likely? This question inspires the theme of the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2009 report: how climate change will play out over the coming century, and what steps we most urgently need to take now.

The year 2009 will be pivotal for the Earth’s climate. The world community has agreed to negotiate a new climate agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009.

300_1277282California Green Building Code

While most of the measures are still voluntary at this time, the California Green Building Code is the first in the country to require the much needed benchmarks that we hope will become mandatory in all construction.

For instance, as far as water conservation is concerned, the code says, “A schedule of plumbing fixtures and fixture fittings will reduce the overall use of potable water within the building by 20%, and provide water efficient landscape irrigation design that reduces by 50% the use of potable water beyond the initial requirements for plant installation and establishment.”

Further, “Each building shall further reduce the generation of wastewater by one of the following methods: The installation of water-conserving fixtures (water closets, urinals) or utilizing non-potable water systems (captured rainwater, graywater, and municipally treated wastewater, recycled water.)

IPCC ReportMitigation of Climate Change


CHAPTER 6 presents a historical impact study of residential and commercial buildings on the environment.

We had the pleasure of corresponding with one of the authors, who expressed great interest in making this information more available.

2109_samso_1_du-8830Denmark Renewable Energy Fact Sheet

The EU is working to reduce the effects of climate change and establish a common energy policy since 2007.  This document offers good data and links on Denmark, specifically.

Denmark Renewable

The “Green-Print” for our Economy


700 billion dollars have already been allocated.  Total job losses in 2008 have hit over 1.9 million, but well-designed recovery programs could restore lost jobs and green our economy, AND once and for all put an end to the “clean coal technology” debate, which as Al Gore said recently on NPR, does not exist!

A  plethora of very valuable recommendations have been pouring in.  Both the Green Recoveryand the 2030 Blueprint provide the archetype needed to create the Keynesian New Deal that we suspect the new administration will follow.  Below is the summary for the 2030 Blueprint, with a tagline of a under $200 billion, not a lot of cash these days…

The 2030 Blueprint

1.  Implement an immediate moratorium on the construction of any new conventional coal plants, and the gradual phasing out of all existing conventional coal plants by 2030 to:

• place an immediate cap on coal plant emissions while allowing time to retrain coal workers for new jobs.

2.  Require that all developments using federal funds meet the 2030 Challenge targets to:

• create additional models of building energy efficiency for the marketplace.

3.  Upgrade the National Energy Conservation Code Standard to the 2030 Challenge targets for residential

and commercial buildings to:

• immediately stabilize and begin reducing energy demand in the Building Sector.

4.  Invest $21.6 billion each year for five years in building energy efficiency measures through existing federal programs (i.e. New Markets Tax Credits; Low Income Housing Tax Credits; a five-year extension and increased funding for efficiency in the Energy Policy Act) and new energy efficiency incentives, tax credits and programs to:

• stimulate building construction

• reduce annual Building Sector energy consumption by 5 QBtu

• reduce annual U.S. CO 2 emissions by 433.5 MMT

• save consumers $128 billion (which more than covers the cost of this solution), and

• create more than one million permanent new jobs

5. Fund and implement a joint labor-management job training program for displaced coal industry jobs based on successful models developed over the past two decades in the tire/rubber, steel, automobile and communications industries.

Congress is currently ‘casting about’ for solutions to both the climate crisis and the U.S. economic crisis. The 2030 Blueprint tackles both crises at once. For just a small portion of the $168 billion that Congress recently earmarked to inject into the struggling economy, the U.S. can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs and an economic stimulus package that ripples throughout the U.S. economy.




We believe that Hunter Lovins and the  Natural Capitalism Solution approach bears most of the ingredients of new societal models. We had the privilege of seeing her speak at the Green California Conference   last April, as well as at the Green California Schools Summit in December.  Her platform is both informative and inspirational.


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