Green Building Codes 2016: The Goalposts are Moving Again

badgers-moving-goalpostsGreen building in 2016 — it’s going to be an exciting time for anyone who likes:
• unintended consequences
• hidden surprises
• forms with essay questions
• cost increases
• obscure code language
• three-ring binders
• drawing sheets full of tiny words
• new unexpected third parties creeping around your project
• continually shifting compliance requirements

Half-seriousness aside, there’s always room for greater resource efficiency in our building stock. If we’re going to insist on an economy fueled by continuous growth, we have to figure out how to stop depleting our natural capital, stretch our resources, and create wealth off the “interest” that our natural capital provides. There will always be green building innovators and early adopters, willing to take on the risk and expense of piloting new strategies and technologies.

However, we still need minimum performance requirements on all buildings in order to reduce overall resource depletion. Paraphrasing the old adage, green codes are the rising tide to lift all boats. So, here’s what the rising tide is going to look like in 2016:

2016 CALGreen
CALGreen is now updated along with all California building codes during the Building Standards Commission triennial code adoption cycle. All parts of 2016 Title 24, including the California Green Building Code, will be published on 7/1/16. New codes go into effect on 1/1/17. Expect a frantic push in the 3rd and 4th quarters to submit projects before the end of the year.
The final version of 2016 CALGreen is not ready yet. However, draft express language indicates that there may be new mandatory requirements for recycled materials, stormwater management, and landscaping. Minimum mandatory requirements are getting more stringent in waste management and water use.

The final version of 2016 CALGreen is not ready yet. However, draft express language indicates that there may be new mandatory requirements for recycled materials, stormwater management, and landscaping. Minimum mandatory requirements are getting more stringent in waste management and water use.

While the rules may be getting harder, a building code is really only as good as its enforcement. Enforcement of CALGreen has been inconsistent since it first went into effect in 2010. However, in our experience, design phase CALGreen enforcement is becoming more persistent. Many jurisdictions outsource their CALGreen review, and those guys seem to know what they are looking for. Expect much more consistent local enforcement of CALGreen design requirements in 2016. Best advice: comply with the code, because you never know what’s going to be enforced, and at what inopportune time.

2016 Building Energy Efficiency Standards
Like CALGreen, the 2016 energy code will be published on 7/1/16. Expect the same frantic push to submit projects for plan-check before the end of the year.

In 2016, you should expect to see more plan-checkers asking to see certificates of compliance. In nonresidential work, these are the NRCC forms that are plastered throughout the drawing set. In residential work, these are the CF1R, CF2R, and CF3R forms. There are certificates of compliance for HVAC, indoor lighting, outdoor lighting, commissioning, solar hot water, fenestration, insulation, roofing, conveyance, and certain processes.

These forms can be a challenge to manage. Not all forms are required for all projects. Different project team members are responsible for different forms. It seems advisable to assign one person the task of verifying completeness of all certificates of compliance… the energy code consultant, the owner, or the owner’s rep might all be good candidates.

Building inspectors are increasingly aware of acceptance testing requirements for lighting controls and HVAC. These requirements often come as a surprise to contractors just before Certificate of Occupancy. Lighting acceptance testing can only be performed by certified lighting Acceptance Test Technicians (ATTs). Mechanical acceptance testing must be performed as well, but it does not need to be done by a certified technician, unless and until there are 300 mechanical ATTs in the state. We will likely exceed that benchmark in 2016.

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