US Green Building Council Celebrates California Local Governments, Bills, and Codes


The US Green Building Council (USGBC)’s “Top10” for 2012 celebrates 10 California communities and 10 California policies at the forefront of green building and development of an efficient built environment. Excerpts on the highlighted communities are copied below. Details on both highlighted communities and highlighted policies are available here.

Most Inspiring: The Sacramento Region for the Greenwise Action Plan

Since Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced the Greenwise Sacramento Plan in his 2010 State of the City address, hundreds of volunteers have devoted thousands of hours to turning a bold vision into reality through the Greenwise Joint Venture. Greenwise 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 for providing resources and incentives for building green since 2001

The Alameda County joint-powers authority,, consists of 14 cities and the County itself accelerating rapid adoption of green building policies and programs in the Bay Area region. Since 2001, has provided green building education, grants and technical assistance to help drive down the cost of certification and showcase leadership from the public sector. Alameda County has assisted or given out grants and services totaling more than $3.5 million to civic and non-profits projects, provided training seminars and scholarships to hundreds of city/county staff and established ordinances that advance LEED in every municipality in Alameda County. These policies and programs continue to drive deeper commitments to building green across 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, the City of Los Angeles established one of the earliest ordinances committing to an all city-owned and cityfunded construction projects of 7,500 square feet or larger to earn LEED certification. This legislation paved the way for extensive market growth and activity beyond the original scope of the policy. The city reaffirmed its commitment to green building with a 2008 ordinance, which is the largest, most aggressive municipal green building plan of any large city in America, the plan calls for a greenhouse gas reduction of 35 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, a goal that exceeds the Kyoto Protocol.

Best Role Model: The City of San Francisco for advancing a comprehensive package of green building policies and incentives

San Francisco has a comprehensive suite of green building policies that has catalyzed an evolving, sophisticated and successful green building industry. In 2004, San Francisco passed an ordinance requiring municipal projects (new, existing or tenant improvements) greater than 5,000 sq ft to earn LEED Silver certification (increased to LEED Gold in 2012. To engage the private sector, the San Francisco Planning Department in 2006 initiated priority permitting for new and renovated buildings that achieve LEED Gold or higher. And, most recently, San Francisco passed the Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance of 2011 requiring all buildings over 10,000 sq ft to track and report energy use annually and to complete an energy efficiency audit every five years. San Francisco is one of only a handful of U.S. cities with mandatory benchmarking and disclosure policies.

Best Residential Partnership: Western Riverside County Council of Governments (WRCOG) for partnering with property owners to provide financing for home energy retrofits

The Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) Program in Western Riverside County partners with the community by providing $325 million in financing for residential and commercial property owners to conduct energy efficiency and water conservation retrofits. The low interest rate financing was intended to spark the local economy, create green jobs and reduce both ratepayer utility expenses and greenhouse gas emissions. The program has been estimated to create more than 3,000 jobs locally. HERO will also position the sub-region as a leader in green building, improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions via a coordinated, large-scale effort in one of the fastest-growing areas of the United States.

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

When Oakland passed Ordinance’s No. 12658 in 2005 and No. 13040 in 2010, the City set forth extensive green building standards for municipal, residential and non-residential buildings, and also for affordable housing. The 2005 ordinance further promotes the proliferation of green building knowledge and expertise through local organizations like Build It Green and provides free technical assistance, green building guidelines and public promotion for qualified projects.

Most Collaborative: Palm Desert for implementing a plan to reduce energy usage by 30 percent

As part of the City’s five-year goal to cut energy usage by 30 percent, Palm Desert has taken a national leadership position in funding and fostering energy efficiency and conservation through the Energy Independence and Set to Save programs in concert with Southern California Edison and the Energy Coalition. Perhaps the most exemplary aspect of Palm Desert’s initiatives is the degree of community involvement and pragmatic, local invention, encompassing everything form cool roofs and pavings to water-efficient golf courses with bamboo tees.

Best in School: Napa Valley Unified’s American Canyon High School Campus for anchoring a community

The city of American Canyon is the fastest growing part of Napa County and for decades local students were bussed 15 miles away to the city of Napa. In response, and with strong public support for a new school, voters passed a $183 million bond measure with plans to build a 45-acre campus designed to incorporate green building principles. As California’s first CHPS verified project, the school received Prop 1D funds to help pay for the project. In addition to innovative water usage and lighting control systems, American Canyon boasts an extensive ground-source heat-pump network with individual units for each classroom, which decreases noise, improves indoor air quality and saves money though energy efficiency. The school’s central location will encourage “low-carbon commuting,” reducing the need for cars and encouraging all members of the community to consider walking and biking over driving around town.

Most Versatile: The City of Chula Vista for incorporating a suite of climate protection policies centered on a commitment to building green

In 2008, the City of Chula Vista adopted plans to implement seven measures designed to reduce the City’s greenhouse gas emissions based on recommendations by the City’s Climate Change Working Group, comprised of residents, businesses and community representatives. A central policy includes a citywide, mandatory green building standard that goes beyond building to Title 24 requirements. Additional measures include a solar & energy efficiency conversion program, smart growth planning and design around trolley stations and a no cost energy assessment of local business facilities to help identify opportunities to reduce monthly energy costs.

Most Team Spirit: The County of Santa Barbara for working with developers to make projects more energy efficient

Building on a long community history of healthy, efficient, low-impact development, Santa Barbara County established the Innovative Building Review Program (IBRP) in 2009. The IBRP advises developers at no cost on how to make their projects more energy efficient. In addition to free technical assistance, the program provides three levels of incentives to developers achieving efficiency above the County’s mandated standards.