Mayor Gavin Newsom signed into law San Francisco’s Green Building Requirements Ordinance on August 5, putting into effect one of the nation’s most stringent building energy codes. Amended to the existing municipal building code, the ordinance will phase in requirements through the year 2012. The measure must first be approved by the California Energy Commission before being officially put into effect November 3.
The far-reaching ordinance requires commercial office buildings over 25,000 square feet to meet minimum LEED certification. Beginning in 2009 the requirement will be increased to a LEED Silver rating, and it will increase to LEED Gold by 2012. Tenant improvements over 25,000 square feet will have until 2010 to reach LEED Silver and 2012 to reach LEED Gold. Mid-size office construction between 5,000 and 25,000 square feet will not have to meet a LEED rating, but will be required to achieve a minimum number of LEED credits (3 by 2009, 4 by 2011, 5 by 2012) relating to water-efficient landscaping, water-use reduction, construction debris management, and energy use.
Residential construction will have a slightly more relaxed standard: High-rise residential buildings will need to meet LEED Silver by 2012. Single family and mid-size residential housing will use the alternate GreenPoint Rated system, which is tailored for California’s residential building industry. Residences will need to obtain 75 GreenPoints by 2012. To encourage re-use of existing buildings, the ordinance also awards additional credits for the restoration of historic architectural features and increases credit requirements for projects that demolish existing building stock.
Most cities’ green building ordinances are less ambitious, and many limit their requirements to basic LEED certification, not Silver or Gold. For example, Los Angeles’ much-discussed order, which goes into effect November 1, requires meeting basic LEED certification and only applies to residential and commercial construction larger than 50,000 square feet.
Amazingly, the new San Francisco ordinance has come up against little opposition. Laurence Kornfield, San Francisco’s chief building inspector, noted that because the measure was to be phased in gradually, and was prepared with input from the Mayor’s Task Force on Green Building (composed of developers, contractors, building owners, and architects), various interest groups were able to quickly come to a consensus. Rich Chien, the city’s private-sector green building coordinator, said he also found few negative reactions to the new regulations. Tyler Krehlik, associate principal with San Francisco–based Anshen+Allen Architects, noted that his firm’s experience with one of the city’s green pilot projects, the Laguna Honda Hospital, demonstrated that “any feasibility, technical challenges, or cost issues can be overcome.”
While the LEED and GreenPoint rating systems will be used as performance standards for the San Francisco plan, actual certification will not be required. In lieu of a LEED/GreenPoint application, a third-party reviewer may be used to certify that the credits have been met. The city is still working out the implementation of the ordinance, but anticipates that it will be part of the normal building application process. In addition to the LEED/GreenPoint standards, San Francisco’s commercial and residential construction will also have to exceed current California building energy efficiency standards by approximately 15 percent.