Napa preparing building codes tougher than 2011 state rules

Napa preparing building codes tougher than 2011 state rules

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In the future, new buildings in Napa will be energy-efficient, stingy with water, will produce less greenhouse gases and provide a much healthier space to work and live.

Napa is taking a hint from the state’s new green building standards code — referred to as Calgreen and scheduled to take effect in 2011 — and is using it as a foundation to upgrade the city’s standards for construction of commercial, retail and residential buildings.

Among other changes, Calgreen calls for is a 20 percent reduction in water consumption, a 50 percent cut in waste going to landfills and requires the use of low-polluting paints, carpeting and flooring materials.

Until now, the state’s green building code has been voluntary. But on Jan. 1, 2011, the California Building Standards Commission rules will become mandatory. No other state has crafted green building code standards.

Tom Andrews, a partner in Andrews & Thornley Construction in Napa, said he believes Calgreen and Napa’s tougher green building codes “are the right thing to do. It’s building responsible buildings. I am very supportive. I am excited to be part of future of responsible construction.”

Andrews is a member of the city’s committee to adopt its own green code.

Much of the weight of meeting green building codes falls upon mechanical and electrical engineers, as energy savings are “paramount in the new code,” Andrews said.

Building to greener standards will increase construction costs, Andrews said. “But the technology, means and methods are improving all the time. The value is there in the long run.”

Steve Jensen, the chief building official for the city of Napa who was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to serve on the California Building Standards Commission, said the increased cost to meet the green standards may be 10 percent or less, “depending on how far someone wants to go,” Jensen said.

He was surprised to see the state’s green building code did not include more mandatory elements.

“The city of Napa will have stronger green standards than the basic Calgreen,” he said. “We are a leader for the whole area. There are other (municipalities) looking to see what we do.” 

Pat Costello, a water resources analyst with the city of Napa, is not worried about the new state standards and said the city is already embracing water-efficiency efforts. “It’s nice to be ahead of the game.”

The city’s efforts include high-efficiency toilets and weather-based irrigation systems for lawns.

Uncertain water supplies and stricter rules, Costello said, will “require us to reduce water per capita demand over the next decade. The entire state must reduce urban water use by 20 percent per capita by 2020.”

Currently, Napa gives away shower heads that use only 1.5 gallons per minute, while current plumbing code allows for as much as 2.5 gallons per minute.  “Parts of Calgreen’s water efficiency guidelines are already very achievable because the technology is out there now,” Costello said.

Mark Kamrath, a mechanical engineer at Bell Products, a metal fabrication contractor that specializing in heating, ventilation and air conditioning, said Calgreen adds a third layer of codes Bell must follow — mechanical code, building code and Calgreen in 2011.

“Some say it adds a layer of complexity, which I don’t agree with. I think it adds a layer of performance and I think that is good. I think it speaks to the future and future generations,” Kamrath said.

“We embrace these standards ... but it will take some work,” he said.

Studies show sustainably-designed buildings increase worker productivity and reduce sick time.

“We like to say we hope in the near future we’re not talking about green building, but it just becomes the way we do business,” said Jeri Gill, CEO of Sustainable Napa County, which has been working with the city on its green building standards.

Gill said the goal is to have city standards meet or exceed Calgreen’s, “which we have been using as our foundation. We are saying where can we do something extra.

“In the end, it’s all about sustainability,” Gill said. “It is a good investment. And people are happier.”

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