This page last reviewed March 10, 2014

California Green Building Strategy

California EPA Building

Buildings represent the second largest source of California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Significant GHG emission reductions can be achieved through sustainable construction, operation, and renovation of new and existing buildings. Since 1978, when Building Energy Efficiency Standards, known as the California Energy Code, were initially adopted, Californians have saved more than $56 billion in electricity and natural gas costs. According to Davis Langdon, "Cost of Green Revisited", there is no significant difference in average cost for green buildings as compared to non-green buildings. Green buildings reduce operating costs, save money over time, and are a cost effective strategy that supports California's GHG goals.  

The 2008 AB 32 Scoping Plan identified several actions to help California reduce GHG emissions from both new and existing buildings.  Original estimates indicated that 26 MMT CO2e of emission reductions could be achieved from the green building sector, which represented 15 percent of California’s 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction target.

In addition to achieving GHG reductions to meet AB 32 targets, the green building strategy also provides a significant contribution towards meeting the 2050 climate goals.  Executive Order S-3-05 calls for reducing greenhouse gas emission reduction for 2020 to 1990 levels; and for 2050, reduce GHG emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels.

The following table shows the measures identified in the AB 32 Scoping Plan to reduce GHG emissions from buildings: 

Measure Description 2020 Reductions*
Green Building Standards Code Consistent mandatory provisions for all building types 2.9
Beyond Code Encourage voluntary efforts to go beyond mandatory code requirements 3.6
Existing Building Retrofits Retrofit existing State, school, residential and commercial buildings 20
Total 26
  * Units of million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (MMTCO2e.)

Green Building Executive Orders to Support Climate Goals

  • Executive Order S-20-04:   At the time of developing the 2008 AB 32 Scoping Plan, Executive Order S-20-04 outlined guiding policies that called for reducing electricity consumption in existing and new State-owned buildings 20 percent by 2015, through designing, constructing and operating all new and renovated State-owned facilities to "LEED Silver" or higher certified buildings. 

  • Executive Order B-18-12: In April 2012, Governor Brown signed a green building Executive Order B-18-12 directing state agencies and departments to take immediate action for State government buildings to serve as models for green building.  EO B-18-12 supports California's climate goals by requiring state agencies to reduce entity-wide GHG emissions by 10% by 2015 and 20% by 2020.  It also includes requirements to reduce grid-based energy purchases by at least 20% by 2018, achieve LEED "Silver" certification for new or major renovated State buildings, retrofit half of existing building to be Zero Net Energy (ZNE) buildings by 2025, and implement electric vehicle charging stations to accommodate future infrastructure demand. 

For more information on how the State is achieving the latest Green Building Executive Order requirements, visit the Department of General Services Green California website.  

Related Links

The websites listed below provide additional information on green building climate actions as well as specific recommendations on ways to save energy, use renewable energy, save water, recycle, and buy green.

  • – Green Building Resources website includes audience specific pages for local governments, businesses, schools, and individuals that provide tools and resources on how to save energy, calculate a carbon footprint, find financial incentives, and become more informed.
  • Green website - An online resource dedicated to provide green building information for homeowners looking to remodel and building professionals interested to learn more about upcoming training and certification opportunities.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Green Building Program website - US EPA provides basic information on why to build green, components of green building, funding opportunities and additional resources available. 
  • Building Green - An independent publishing company committed to providing the Environmental Building News, a suite of green building tools, and the GreenSpec product directory.
  • U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) - A non-profit organization that offers LEED green building certification programs as well as other cost-efficient and energy-savings information.
  • California Public Utilities Commission - CPUC outlines the state's energy efficiency programs and includes a comprehensive listing of recent news, regulatory proceeds, relevant program tools, and publications such as reports on the technical feasibility and mapping pathways to Zero Net Energy (ZNE) buildings in California.

For questions or comments, please contact Dana Papke Waters at (916) 324-9615