Building Green in San Francisco and LA
Regulation of green building and certification tends to be county governed, with cities setting their own standards of sustainability. Since buildaroo.com is based in Berkeley, CA, the new standards cropping up around California really hit home. San Francisco and Los Angeles in particular are at the forefront of creating such regulations for sustainable urban living. But, with so many different standards, it's hard to keep track of them all. That's why we at buildaroo.com are going to start by outlining some of the regulations closest to our home. We're devoted to Making Green Easy, one city at a time!
Read on to learn about some of the most recent regulatory requirements for green building in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
San Francisco has three city agencies that take care of green standards – San Francisco Environment, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. These organizations set the green standards for businesses, products, and buildings.
Certification for Green Businesses & Products
San Francisco has a Precautionary Purchasing Ordinance (2005), as developed by SFEvironment. By this ordinance, City funds may only be used to purchase items listed in the SF Approved Green Products & Services Catalog, and purchased items must be reported annually. This catalog also helps builders earn US Green Building Council LEED credits. San Francisco's standards are in some cases more stringent than many eco labels, and the city has an approved list of green products, services, and lighting. The catalog can be found at http://www.sfenvironment.org/sfapproved.
Beyond this, the City has undertaken numerous other legislative steps to promote sustainability by regulating the use of green products. San Francisco limits aresenic-treated wood with its Aresenic-Treated Wood Ordinance. Executive Directive 08-02, from March 4, 2008, set forth a plan to enhance recycling and resource conservation by requiring City departments and their contractors to purchase only 100% Post-Consumer Content Recycled Paper. This Directive also mandated a reduction in paper use and that city departments only purchase "SF Approved" products. Furthermore, with an Executive Directive that began on April 1, 2008, San Francisco set regulations to achieve a system of sustainability for information technology, from production to use and disposal. The city purchases as many Fair Trade Certified goods for the city as possible, buys multi fuction devices (MFDs) to replace printers, copiers faxes and scanners, and maximizes purchases of Organic Certified products when procuring goods necessary for the City.
The City and County of San Francisco's Green Business Program, helps City businesses become both sustainable and profitable. The program has stringent requirements and promotes the businesses it certifies. San Francisco Green Business is composed of SF Environment, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. It is also a member of the Bay Area Green Business Program. The SF Green Business Program sets standards for restaurants, hotels, dentists, office and retail buildings, janitors, and garment cleaners.
According to the SF Green Business Program, their green certified businesses conserve energy, water, natural resources, reduce waste and use less-toxic products. So far nearly 30 of San Francisco's green certified businesses have been studied to show improved environmental impacts. Starting this year, the SF Green Business program plans to obtain environmental measurement data from all of its green approved businesses.
For more information on greening your business, visit http://www.sfgreenbiz.org/.<
Certification for Green Buildings
For buildings in San Francisco, there are private sector and municipal sector standards. SFenvironment.org is a great resource for those looking to delve further into these standards. The site provides a comprehensive look at green certification in San Francisco, and links to the appropriate legislation. San Francisco is at the forefront of such legislation, and all of this was enacted very recently.
As of November 2008, the San Francisco Building Code (Chapter 13C) requires all new buildings in the city to be green! The standards are set by the Mayor's Green Building Task Force, and can be found here and here.
Sarah T. Grilli gives a great overview of these new green building codes. As she states, the codes focus on San Francisco’s scarcity of water problem by following the LEED standard for Sustainable Sites (SS 6.1 and 6.2) and the LEED standard for Water Efficiency (LEED WE 1.1). These standards address water efficiency and use. Waste produced during construction is regulated by LEED’s Materials and Resources section (MR 2.2).
New Mid-sized Commercial Buildings
These regulations cover new commercial buildings 5,000 to 25,000 square feet in size. The Green Building Task Force requires that a LEED checklist must be submitted, though certification is not required. The guidelines essentially require efficient stormwater use and a reduction of potable water use.
New Large-Scale Commercial Buildings and Major Remodels to Existing Buildings
This includes new and significantly remodeled buildings over 25,000 square feet. Such buildings must achieve LEED Silver Certification, and have more stringent standards for potable water reduction than mid-sized commercial buildings. The potable water requirements increase by 2011, and by 2012 new buildings will be required to achieve LEED Gold Certification.
New Small and Mid-Sized Residential Buildings
New residential buildings composed of less than 4 units and buildings over 5 units by less than 75 feet in height must submit a GreenPoint checklist meeting 25 points. This point requirement increases to 50 in 2010, and 75 in 2012. Actual GreenPoint certification is not required. More information on GreenPoint can be found here. Furthermore, 2009 permit applicants must comply with the SFPUC Stormwater Design Guidlines, and in some situations the LEED stormwater management guidlines must be applied.
New High-Rise Residential Buildings
All new high-rise residential buildings, by definition larger than the buildings described above, must achieve a GreenPoint rating of 50 points or meet the LEED certification standard. Like the previous standard, this GreenPoint requirement also increases, to 75 points or LEED Silver Certification by 2010. New buildings must also achieve a minimum 50% reduction in potable water used for landscaping and a 20% general reduction in potable water usage. New high-rise buildings must also also meet the SFPUC Stormwater design guidelines and follow LEED section MR 2.2.
In Chapter 13(c) of San Francisco's Building Code, there are also additional elements of sustainability. For example, a project may gain green credits for retaining the historical elements of a building. Surprisingly, actual LEED certification from the USGBC is not required for occupancy once a building is complete. Because LEED certification is so timely, the codes allow building managers to create a "Green Building Compliance Professional of Record" position for each project. The individual must be a LEED Accredited Professional and a licensed engineer or architect. They are responsible for reviewing a project's compliance with the codes in Chapter 13C.
For those interested, there is a Northern California Chapter of the USGBC based in San Francisco (with branches in Monterey, Sacramento, and Silicon Valley). Information regarding the branch can be found at http://www.usgbc-ncc.org/.
All municipal projects in San Francisco (new constructions/major renovations over 5,000 square feet) are required to achieve LEED Silver Certification. The specific requirements can be found in SF's Resource Efficiency Requirements and Green Building Standards Ordinance
The City also has a ban on Tropical Hardwoods, Virgin Redwoods, and Arsenic-Treated Wood. Also the Resource Conservation Ordinance bans the use and purchase of PVC products where alternatives are available. Builders are encouraged to find materials using Build it Green, which allows builders to search by a variety of green standards, and provides guideline and government resources.
Los Angeles is a little behind the times as compared to San Francisco. LA's green business certification program is only due mid-2009. This is part of LA's City Agency, EnvironmentLA and will be modeled after the Bay Area Green Business Program.
Green Building Standards
LA may not yet have green business standards, but the city does have green building standards, which were enacted about a year ago on Earth Day, April 22, 2008. LA, like San Francisco, uses the LEED building standards.
LA's Green Building Program is administered by LA's Green Building Team and abides by article 6.1 of Chapter 1 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code. Its purpose is to reduce the use of natural resources and minimize negative impacts on the environment at large.
The program addresses five environmental areas: site, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. It is a project of LA's "Green Team" and the GreenLA initiative.
Key Points of the Private Sector Green Building Ordinance
- Require that all new projects greater than 50 units or 50,000 square feet show compliance with the LEED Certified level.
- Expedite processing through all departments, if LEED Silver designation is met.
- Initiate an ongoing review of city codes to ease use of environmentally sound and superior materials and processes.
- Create a cross-departmental Sustainability Team to review and revise green building policies and specific projects. They will meet weekly so that the development community can enjoy ongoing interaction with City staff.
- Direct City General Managers and department and agency heads (namely Planning, Building and Safety, Public Works, Water and Power, Transportation, and CRA) to train and certify their staff in green building methods and policies and/or as LEED Accredited Professionals. This training should be ongoing and appear in each departmental annual budget.
- Work with the Board of DWP Commissioners to continue to add DWP financial incentives for projects that meet green building standards.
- Create and confer the Mayor’s Annual Award of Excellence in Sustainable Design & Construction to recognize exemplary efforts by individuals and companies in the private sector.
- For more info, be sure to check of the City of Los Angeles' site on the subject.
Los Angeles and San Francisco are truly setting the standards for green certification. Both cities are striving to create models of sustainability, and the rules are becoming increasingly more stringent. Despite the complex set of regulations, there is some order in the legislation being passed. Both cities use LEED based models in addition to their own requirements for defining just what is "green." Hopefully this article sheds some light on the subject and helps you on your own "green" journey.