Over the past five years there has been an aggressive push in California at the local and state level to dramatically increase the sustainability of our already strict building codes. That effort culminated in the groundbreaking passage of the nation’s first statewide “Green” building code, referred to as “CALGreen.” Unlike in the past, where only a few individual jurisdictions passed local ordinances to guide green construction, now all buildings in the state must comply with a statewide minimum. Because of this code, all new construction is consistently more environmentally friendly.
There are still advocates that are pushing ever more strict codes based on non-governmental standards. However, since the baseline in California has come up so much, pushing that goal ever further out there makes the incremental costs more and more expensive and the technological aspects less feasible.
Rational people can argue about what level of “green” is appropriate for a building and their jurisdiction, and that is happening in many cities across the state. Recently, policymakers in the City of Cupertino had such a discussion. Urged on by green building advocates to adopt mandates mirroring upper levels of some private certification programs, the city council decided not to take that course of action at this time.
Instead, the City of Cupertino has decided for the time being to focus its efforts on compliance with the new state mandated CALGreen provisions and then revisit the issue in 2012. Here is an interesting article that outlines some of the issues they wrestled with when considering whether or not to adopt tougher standards.