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Trio of CA Green Building Bills Await Arnold’s Action by Oct. 12

Three green building bills are currently awaiting Governor Schwarzenegger’s signature out in Sacramento. If he approves them before an October 12 deadline, Democrat-sponsored Assembly Bills (“AB”) 888 and 1058 would apply to certain commercial and residential buildings throughout California, while AB 35 would also require state buildings to meet similar green building standards.

AB 888 would mandate that some commercial buildings- including banks and car dealerships- greater than 50,000 square feet meet the equivalent of a LEED Gold rating under a standard that the California Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) will develop and implement by 2013 in conjunction with a number of other state entities, including the Building Standards Commission. Interestingly, the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Ted Liu (D-Torrance), amended AB 888 “[t]o appease opponents concerned about allowing a non-governmental group [i.e., USGBC] to set standards.” Similarly, AB 1058 would direct the California EPA to “develop, adopt, and make available a set of voluntary green building ‘best practices’ for residential home construction” in cooperation with the same working group of various state entities as AB 888. The third bill pending, AB 35, would require state buildings to meet the standards as developed under AB 888 by 2010.

Nevertheless, according to The Sacramento Bee, the Buildings Standard Commission- which regulates California’s building codes- has opposed both AB 888 and 1058. The Bee also quoted Bob Raymer of the California Building Industry Association who noted that “[if you’ve got a relatively small building and you’ve got to comply with LEED goals, it’s going to cost you more than 1 or 2 percent [of construction costs] . . . [a]nd I’m not sure you’d recoup it.” Raymer’s comments are particularly interesting in light of language in subsection (g) of AB 888, which states that “[i]n depth studies of projects to analyze the cost of green buildings, using detailed cost estimates, demonstrate that there is no significant difference in the construction costs for the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) buildings versus non-LEED buildings in any of the categories.”

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