Hollywood Sign looking at Los Angeles

The LADBS California Green Building Code (CALGreen)

The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety is the primary governmental department that’s responsible for approving permits and performing field inspections. This department has proven to be invaluable to the city because of how it oversees the construction of any building or structure in the area.

In order for a structure to be built in Los Angeles, the developer must provide the LADBS with building plans alongside extensive documentation to make sure that the design adheres to the local building codes. These codes are in place to make sure that the building is safe and secure for anyone who lives or works there.

The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety is also responsible for maintaining the California Green Building Code (CALGreen). The purpose of this code is to effectively improve public safety, health, and welfare via the enhanced design/construction of buildings. When implemented correctly, buildings will be constructed in a manner that reduces the negative environmental impact of construction while also promoting sustainable construction practices and techniques.

Keep in mind that the Los Angeles Green Building Code was developed to adhere to the same principles of the California Green Building Code. In fact, nearly all cities in California follow the same guidelines to make sure that the different jurisdictions are able to obtain a level of consistency. The following guide offers a more comprehensive overview of CALGreen and how it’s associated with the LADBS.

Women reviewing CALGreen permits

What is CALGreen?

As mentioned previously, CALGreen was designed for the purpose of improving public safety, health, and welfare in regards to how buildings are constructed. The concepts that are used in the construction of these buildings are able to promote principles that positively impact the environment. Sustainable building practices are also encouraged to make sure that waste is reduced and energy is properly used. The five components of building construction that are covered by CALGreen include:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Planning and design
  • Resource efficiency and material conservation
  • Environmental quality
  • Water conservation and efficiency

The California Green Building Code was officially adopted by Los Angeles in 2019. At the time, numerous amendments were attached to the original document to ensure that the guidelines were understood by the LADBS as well as developers. Keep in mind that these building codes mainly apply to residential buildings, which extend to:

  • Apartment buildings and condominiums
  • Hotels and motels
  • Dormitories, homeless shelters, and employee housing
  • One and two-family structures, factory-built housing, and townhouses
  • Any other dwellings that consist of sleeping accommodations

Submittal Requirements

Before you send in a building permit application, you should first determine if your building would fall under the California Green Building Code. The types of projects that must adhere to these building codes include:

  • Every new residential and non-residential building
  • Every residential and non-residential addition
  • Alterations that occur on residential and non-residential buildings valued at $200,000 or higher
  • Residential alterations that cause the structure’s conditioned volume to increase

If you are getting ready to submit your building plans to the LADBS for the regular plan check, you must provide an additional set of building plans. The extra building plans will be sent over to the Green Building Division for approval. You’ll only be granted a building permit by the LADBS if your building plans are first approved by the Green Building Division.

CALGreen Constructed Home

CALGreen Building Programs

The California Green Building Code has a wide variety of building programs that developers need to follow depending on the type of structure they’re building. Some of these programs come with incentives to further encourage developers to adopt them and construct sustainable buildings. The primary building programs that are covered by CALGreen include:

  • Solar energy
  • Water conservation
  • Existing buildings energy and water efficiency program
  • Cool roof
  • Waste hauling
  • Fireplaces

Solar Energy

The solar energy program was designed to encourage developers to focus on solar energy when constructing buildings. When electricity is produced from fossil fuels, pollution is invariably created. This pollution includes everything from greenhouse gas emissions to smog.

Los Angeles is able to readily invest into solar energy as a result of owning their own municipal utility in combination with the ample sunshine that the city receives. This conditioned investment allows Los Angeles to benefit from clean power, better grid reliability, and less pollution.

Water Conservation

In Los Angeles, the average household uses just over 100 gallons of water every day. This water is commonly used to keep buildings cool, fill swimming pools, and keep yards properly irrigated. When drought conditions continue, however, Los Angeles has been tasked with improving its own water supply, which is why water conservation improvements are necessary.

The guidelines in the California Green Building Code provide incentives for developers and homeowners to conserve water and adapt to the issues brought about by a climate that’s constantly changing. One way that homeowners in Los Angeles can save water is by having water-efficient appliances and fixtures installed in their homes. Drought-tolerant landscaping is also highly recommended.

Gray-water Systems

Part of the water conservation guidelines listed in the Green Building Code focus on gray-water systems, which are a type of wastewater system that can use gray water for landscape irrigation. These guidelines state that a plumbing permit must be obtained from the LADBS before a gray-water system is constructed, installed, or altered. These systems can’t be used in spray irrigation.

EV Chargers

Another key program of focus with the California Green Building Code involves EV chargers. Transportation is a core contributor to emissions of greenhouse gases, which invariably damage the climate. Even though California has taken extensive measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, nearly 15 million people in the state own cars. The transportation industry is known to contribute over 40% of greenhouse gas emissions throughout the state.

If you want to do your part to protect the environment, buying an electric vehicle is a great way to reduce emissions. If you would like to obtain an electrical vehicle charging station, you will first need an electrical permit, which can be applied for via the online permitting system that’s available through the LADBS website.

DWP Rebate Program for EV Chargers

You can receive rebates for purchasing an electric vehicle as well as an EV charger through the DWP Rebate Program. This rebate is available from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and must be applied for within six months after you’ve purchased the charger.

Existing Buildings Energy & Water Efficiency (EBEWE) Program

The Existing Buildings Energy & Water Efficiency program was created in 2017 and requires owners of specific existing buildings to disclose the consumption of water and energy in their building and comply with all requirements for retro-commissioning and audits. This information is used by the city to create reports for analysis and improvement.

Cool Roof

A cool roof refers to a type of roofing product that’s able to reflect sunlight and effectively absorb a lower amount of heat when compared to traditional roofs. When the temperatures are particularly hot, a cool roof will reduce the roof temperature, which ensures that the interior temperature is comfortable.

In this situation, you won’t need to run your air conditioning unit as much, which saves energy. These roofs are available in many colors, which include blue, green, brown, gray, and orange. You can also purchase these roofs in styles like shake, shingle, membrane, and tile.

Waste Hauling

A waste recycling ordinance was initially approved by the Los Angeles City Council in 2010, which required all construction and demolition waste to be taken to waste processors. Los Angeles Sanitation is directly responsible for this policy.

Most of the waste stream produced from construction and demolition materials can be recycled or reused. Any contractor or hauler who is tasked with handling this waste will first need to obtain a waste hauler permit via LA Sanitation before transporting the waste.

Fireplaces

Areas in Southern California currently have among the highest fine particulate pollution levels in the U.S. Because of concerns involving air pollution and public health, Rule 445 was adopted, which was part of the Healthy Hearths program.

Fireplaces and other wood-burning systems are considered to be primary sources of the air pollution in Los Angeles. These systems can cause your indoor air to become polluted with toxic air pollutants. The guidelines in the California Green Building Code require fireplaces to be EPA-certified.

Conclusion

The LADBS California Green Building Code is an important program that drives nearly all new construction projects. While this code can be complex and difficult to comprehend at first glance, it’s essential that you adhere to the CALGreen guidelines when beginning development on a construction project of any kind. As long as you apply for the right permits and submit your building plans to the proper departments and building authorities, you should be able to continue development without any unnecessary delays.

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