Monday, September 24, 2007

Green Building Bills

A good overview of the costs, political and technological, involved in getting to the point where building green makes good economic sense as well as environmental sense.

And, speaking of adopting the gold standard for green building as the state standard, it might also make sense to adopt the gold standard of flood protection—a 500 year level—as another wise public policy protecting California's natural resources.

Green light for governor?
Three pro-environment bills await his OK
By Judy Lin - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, September 24, 2007

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is about to be tested on how far he's willing to go to keep his reputation green.

Sitting on the governor's desk are three Democratic bills that would expand California's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by requiring state, residential and certain commercial buildings to adopt environmentally responsible practices in design and construction.

If Schwarzenegger signs the bills, California could begin requiring more efficient use of water in new homes as well as energy-efficient lighting in large office buildings, and more state workers could find themselves treading on recycled carpet.

"If he's serious about reducing global warming, he needs to make buildings more efficient," said Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, co-author of Assembly Bills 888 and 1058, which deal, respectively, with commercial and residential buildings.

The governor has until Oct. 12 to sign or veto bills passed by the Legislature. The executive branch has remained mum about whether Schwarzenegger will sign the three green building bills, but state officials say they are already working toward green building standards.

"It wouldn't change much of what we're doing," said David Walls, executive director of the Building Standards Commission, which has opposed both bills. The commission regulates building codes.

Building and business interests also are concerned about the cost of going green at a time when construction costs are rising.

AB 888 would require some commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet, including banks and auto dealerships, to meet a gold rating by 2013 from the U.S. Green Building Council, which developed the widely used Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system to measure a building's energy efficiency.

LEED ratings are based on points, and Bob Raymer of the California Building Industry Association said that spending a few hundred dollars on energy-efficient lighting could earn a project the same number of points as installing solar panels, which can run tens of thousands of dollars.

"If you've got a relatively small building and you've got to comply with LEED goals, it's going to cost you more than 1 or 2 percent" of construction costs, Raymer said. "And I'm not sure you'd recoup it."

To be certified as a LEED green building, commercial projects must meet certain prerequisites. Depending on the number of points they accumulate, the projects are awarded either a certified, silver, gold or platinum rating.

Lieu wants the state to adopt the gold rating as the state standard. Assembly Bill 35 by Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City, would direct state buildings to meet the same standard after 2010.