Vol. 5 2010 – Green building standards: Mandatory vs. Voluntary


Green Building Standards: Mandatory vs. Voluntary.


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What was once a “niche market” is now one of the most important considerations in the construction and design industry. There is a universal concern that the processes and products used in the production of a building (new or renovated) supports sustainability during the various stages of its life cycle. Across North America, governments and local communities have implemented both voluntary and mandatory green building standards, programs and rating systems to support the technological advancements in environmental progress within the design industry.



Voluntary Standards


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As green design promotes less water consumption and energy use, many builders will voluntarily seek a third-party post construction evaluation. Many states and provinces that currently do not mandate green building, utilize these programs in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint. Recognized worldwide, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a certification program that is regularly referred to during the various stages of the design and construction process.



Caption: American Standard H2Option Dual Flush Toilet – 2887 516

Compliance Certifications Meets or Exceeds the Following Specifications: ASME A112.19.2-2008/CSA B45.1-08, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Supplementary Purchase Specification for Non-Adjustability and US EPA WaterSenseSM criteria for HET’s



Sloan NBMany states and provinces have implemented new building regulations that calculate a building’s LEED certification. In order to be certified bronze, silver, gold or platinum, a building must satisfy all of the outlined requirements and achieve a minimum level of “points” by utilizing green products and building concepts. For example, LEED points that may be attained under the water efficiency category could be accomplished by specifying eco-friendly plumbing equipment that specifically supports water conservation.


With that being said, many countries have adopted voluntary rating programs that are similar to LEED in order to further stress the importance of being environmentally conscientious.  


Caption: Sloan ECOS® Electronic Dual Flush Valve – 8111-1.6/1.1

By using Sloan high-efficiency products, water conservation and efficiency programs are significantly decreasing the use of water within buildings. In fact, water-efficient fixtures can reduce consumption by 30% or more.




Mandatory Standards


Many regions have started to make green building practices mandatory within their current building codes. As of January 1st, 2011, all new construction in the state of California must follow CALGREEN, the nation’s first state-wide green building code. The CALGREEN Code ensures that all new residential and commercial buildings, including schools and hospitals, built in California utilize environmentally advanced construction practices.





For instance, it will be mandatory for all new buildings to reduce indoor water use by at least 20 percent. This requirement, along with the others being implemented will certainly pave the way of achieving the Governor’s intention for the state’s overall environmental contribution. Governor Schwarzenegger stated, “The code will help us meet our goals of curbing global warming and achieving 33 percent renewable energy by 2020 and promotes the development of more sustainable communities by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy efficiency in every new home, office building or public structure.”i



Caption: A.O. Smith MasterFit® LowNOx Commercial Gas Tank Type Water Heaters – BTN 120-240

All models meet ANSI Z21.10.3 – CSA 4.3 standards, meet or exceed the thermal efficiency and standby loss requirements of the U.S. Department of Energy and current edition of ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1, comply with California Energy Commission (CEC) and comply with the Air Quality Management Districts’ requirements for low-NOx.




Whether on a national, regional, or local level, the trend towards mandating green building is developing. With many states and provinces following suit, green construction laws have passed or gone into effect in New York City, Los Angeles, San Jose and British Columbia. While the concept of sustainable design is noticeably gaining popularity within the construction industry, it is not without challenges. However, with states such as California leading the way, the move towards eco-friendly standards will most certainly be achieved. 



Final Thoughts


Designers have a major opportunity to impact the green movement. What motivates green design differs from region-to-region and designer-to-designer. Whether mandated or voluntarily, solidify your global impact with your next building or renovation project by specifying energy-efficient products.




i “Governor Schwarzenegger Announces First-in-the-Nation Statewide Green Building Standards Code.” January 2010. Office of the Governor.  




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