Green-Hyping the Building Codes

Rex Hime
President and CEO of the California Business Properties Association

California is on the verge of adopting CALGREEN, the nation’s first set of mandatory green building standards. And oddly enough, the green building lobby is leading an effort to scuttle this proposal.

They are not opposed because they think CALGREEN standards are weak. Their materials show they are opposing this effort because it would challenge their bottom line and the monopoly they hold on labeling buildings.

When you follow the money and examine the actions of these advocates, led by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Northern California Chapter (USGBC-NCC) – a private organization – it becomes obvious that the control of who can label a building has taken precedent over a broad statewide policy that would make every building in this state greener.

This provincial perspective and fight over handing out pretty plaques is at the expense of reducing emissions, saving energy and water, and easily applying cost-effective sustainable practices statewide.

The group has launched a lobbying effort to generate opposition to CALGREEN – a standard that would apply to all buildings and a plan that would make it easier for local jurisdictions to require measures that go beyond the base code to obtain up to 30% more efficient buildings.

Those opposing CALGREEN simply do not want competition from the state – and even worse, they want the government to mandate that they be the only program that can do this work. Many of the same advocates were proponents of a bill in the Legislature that would have bypassed this public process altogether and forced the state to use only the USGBC standards.

The arguments of the green building lobby lay bare the fact that this is only about market share. In materials for their lobbying effort they claim that the state using a descriptor like “CALGREEN” or providing guidance for additional green measures above the minimum would cause “confusion” in the marketplace. No one I know is confused.

They also argue that for the state to implement any type of standard above and beyond the minimum, private third party certification is required. And guess who would do that certification? The impact of this would merely increase the bureaucracy of construction – with no actual green benefit – adding unnecessary expense in a fundamental departure from the way all other code issues are enforced. It also insinuates that local building departments are unable to enforce green building measures, even though we trust them for health and safety issues.

The actions of the green building lobby will benefit a small number of consultants in the short run; but the unsophisticated nature of mandating market share will ultimately dilute innovation and broad application of these practices. Just like seismic standards, ADA, and all other environmental regulation, the state should set the policy and not cede authority to a special interest.

Don’t be fooled by the Green-Hype when advocates who benefit from the bureaucracy of a certification system fume about CALGREEN. Understand that the state has been regulating the building industry for decades with a statewide building code whose verification standards and regulatory practices are sound and successful – we already have the greenest codes in the nation.

CALGREEN standards will reduce water consumption by twenty percent, remove an estimated 3 million tons of carbon dioxide from our air by 2020, and divert fifty percent of construction waste with no huge new bureaucracy needed. It’s a shame that the adoption of this innovative environmental program has been marred by self-interested groups protecting their turf.

Comment on this article


Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.