Sierra Club California is seeing red over new green building “rules” currently under consideration.
The California Building Standards Commission meets Tuesday, May 6 to decide whether to adopt weak, voluntary green building standards. Sierra Club California, along with a number of key legislative leaders and environmental groups, opposes the rules.
For years, California builders and architects have led the nation in designing safe, inspiring buildings. Now we have a chance to tower over the rest of the world in sustainable design as well. We're urging commissioners to reverse their current course and begin to engage in continued discussions of meaningful, enforceable standards.
Reasons Not To Like The New Standards
- Through their use of energy, residential and commercial buildings in California produce about 30 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Increased energy efficiencies in buildings could cut a minimum of 3 million metric tons of emissions by 2020 -- if the changes are done right.
- As a sector, commercial and residential buildings account for more greenhouse gas emissions than industry or transportation, according to a report by the federal Energy Information Administration. Spiking energy use by U.S. buildings accounted for 48 percent of the nation’s total increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
- The standards use the term “bio-based," which isn’t reality-based. Simply because a product comes from biologically based sources doesn’t make it sustainable. For example, the Chinook salmon is “biologically based,” yet harvest of the population wouldn’t be sustainable because its numbers are so low. You won't find this term used anywhere else, including EPA's “Terminology Reference System,” the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system, the Build It Green “GreenPoint Rated” system, or The Construction Specifications Institute “GreenFormat” sustainable product reporting form.
- Widespread clear cutting, logging in endangered species habitat, conversion of forests to plantations and other harmful forest practices aren’t “green” by anyone’s definition. Wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a certification approved by the U.S. Green Building Council, cannot be harvested in those ways. But the Building Standards Commission’s voluntary rules would allow the use of wood certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC), or American Tree Farm – none of which have the same, strict certification standards.
- Currently, tens of thousands of acres of FSC-certified forest in California and many hundreds of California-based distributors, manufacturers, retailers and other companies that service the building industry. Integration of FSC certification into the state’s standards could drive the industry to embrace these attainable, sustainable practices.
- During a contentious March meeting, the BSC removed all talk of sustainable land use from even these voluntary green building standards – even though it’s universally acknowledged that infill development is “greener” because it lessens commute time. This further weakened these already watered-down voluntary “rules.”