Perhaps the most note-worthy aspect of California’s new mandatory green building codes is the complete support it received from the state’s Building Industry Association (CBIA). After decades of playing (and usually losing) the opposition game over codes and other regulatory initiatives affecting the industry, the CBIA has changed its tactics to cooperation and ­consensus—and has still come away with safeguards for its builder members and housing affordability. “If we weren’t part of the process, it would be shoved down our throats,” says CBIA spokesman Mike Castillo, referring to the new code ­authored by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development. “I think it kind of freaked them out that we were willing to work with them,” he says.

Performance and prescriptive standards will push new housing in the state to be 50 percent more energy efficient than current national standards (a 20 percent bump up from the state’s existing code) and progressively address critical issues of water conservation and indoor air quality during the next three years. “It will be a smooth, easy transition with interim steps and programs that help builders comply,” says Castillo. “Builders can ease into new technology and products [such as photovoltaics] while their costs come down over time.”

The new code also creates a level playing field for green building standards across all local jurisdictions. To date, says Castillo, only about 40 California municipalities mandate any sort of green building standards, causing confusion and cost overruns among builders who cross borders. Local officials will now have to adopt the state’s code as a minimum standard, with the ability to boost certain segments at their discretion.