The USGBC and the USGBC California, which represents eight USGBC chapters in the state, has released an inaugural list of the top 10 state and local green-building policies in California. The policies listed are recognized in various categories such as “Most Visionary,” “Most Market Transforming,” and “Best Leadership by Example.” 

The top 10 state policies are:

  • Most Visionary: California Energy Commission’s Title 24 (Part 6), “The Energy Code,” of 1978. Since 1978, the standards have been updated periodically to incorporate new energy-efficiency technologies and methods. The 2013 Building Energy Efficiency Standards are designed to reduce annual energy use of commercial buildings and new homes by 30 percent compared to the 2008 code.

  • Most Comprehensive: Assembly Bill 758, Existing Building Energy Efficiency, of 2009. The bill instructs the California Energy Commission (CEC) to develop and implement a comprehensive energy-efficiency program for existing residential and nonresidential buildings, with strategies such as energy assessments, benchmarking, and building energy-use ratings and labels.

  • Most Impactful: Assembly Bill 32, The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The act requires the California Air Resources Board to develop regulations and market mechanisms to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and targets a 25-percent reduction statewide.

  • Most Educational: Senate Bill 128, High-Performance Schools Facilities Funding. This bill calcifies the regulations to include renewable energy and innovative technologies in modernizations of existing school buildings, as well as in new additions to existing campuses.

  • Most Foundational: California Green Building Standards Code (CalGreen). CalGreen was the first statewide green-building code.

  • Most Historic: Assembly Bill 4420, GHG Inventory, Climate Change Planning of 1988. This legislation led to the Renewable Portfolio Standard, the Climate Action Registry, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Integrated Waste Management Act.

  • Most Brilliant: Senate Bill 1, The California Solar Initiative of 2006. This legislation required the CEC and the California Public Utilities Commission to implement a program to install 3,000 megawatts of solar energy systems on new and existing residential and commercial sites.

  • Most Energizing: Senate Bill X1 2, 33 percent Renewable Energy by 2020, of 2011. This bill requires all state energy providers to buy 33 percent of their energy from clean, renewable energy sources by 2020.

  • Most Sweeping: Senate Bill 375, Sustainable Communities of 2008. The Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008 instructed the California Air Resources Board to set regional emissions reduction targets for passenger vehicles. In addition, the metropolitan planning organization for each region must develop sustainable communities strategies.

  • Most Creative: Assembly Bill 811, Assessment-based Financing of 2008. The bill, “Contractual Assessments of 2008,” authorized cities and counties starting in2008 to designate areas for city officials and property owners to enter in to contractual assessments to finance the installation, generation, and distribution of renewable-energy sources.

The top 10 local policies are:

  • Most Inspiring: The Sacramento Region for the Greenwise Action Plan of 2010, which seeks to transform the Sacramento valley through three parallel efforts—active community and business engagement, a self-sustaining clean economy, and a transformation to the greenest region in the country. 

  • Most Market Transforming: Alameda County’s StopWaste.org for green-building grants and technical assistance since 2001. Under the program, more than $3.5 million has been given out for green-building education, grants, and technical assistance in 14 cities in the county. 

  • Most Visionary: Los Angeles for adopting one of the first green building ordinances that helped start a city-wide green building movement in 2002. A 2002 ordinance commits the city to achieve LEED certification on all city-owned and city-funded construction projects of 7,500 square feet or larger. A 2008 ordinance calls for a greenhouse gas reduction of 35 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. 

  • Best Role Model: The City of San Francisco for advancing a comprehensive package of green building policies and incentives since 2004. New, existing, and tenant improvement municipal projects greater than 5,000 square feet must earn LEED Gold certification as of 2012. In 2006, the city planning department began priority permitting for new and renovated buildings that achieve LEED Gold or higher. In addition, the city’s Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance of 2011 requires all buildings over 10,000 square feet to track and report energy use annually. 

  • Best Residential Partnership: Western Riverside County Council of Governments (WRCOG) for financing residential and commercial energy retrofits in 2011. The country’s Home Energy Renovation Opportunity program provides $325 million in financing for residential and commercial property owners to conduct energy-efficiency and water-conservation retrofits. 

  • Best Leadership by Example: Oakland for its inclusive approach to building green by working with local green-building organizations to grow the area’s green-building practice since 2005. Two city ordinancse (No. 12659 in 2005 and No. 13040 in 2010) set extensive green-building standards for municipal, residential, and non-residential buidlings, as well as for affordable housing. 

  • Most Collaborative: Palm Desert for implementing a plan to increase energy independence and reduce energy usage by 30 percent in 2008. The plan has a five-year goal that is supported by programs with Southern California Edison and the Energy Coalition. 

  • Best in School: Napa Valley Unified’s American Canyon High School Campus for sustainable planning that anchored a community in 2008. Voters passed a $183 million bond measure to build the 45-acre high school campus, which was the state’s first Collaborative for High-Performance Schools-verified project. 

  • Most Versatile: The City of Chula Vista for incorporating a suite of climate protection policies centered on a commitment to building green in 2008. A citywide, mandatory green-building standard goes beyond Title 24 requirement, while other city initiatives include a solar and energy-efficiency conservation program, smart-growth planning, and a no-cost energy assessment of local businesses to identify energy reduction opportunities. 

  • Most Team Spirit: The County of Santa Barbara’s Innovative Building Review Program (IBRP) advises developers how to make their projects more energy efficient at no cost, since 2009. In addition to free technical assistance, IBRP provides three levels of incentives to achieve efficiency above county-mandated standards.


The unveiling of the list coincided with USGBC California’s annual Advocacy Day, which brings volunteers to the state capital for a day of visits and briefings with legislators to talk about the benefits of green building. To learn more about the policies, click here.