Green Building Codes and Standards

Green_Building.jpgAdams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo’s energy efficiency and green building standards practice primarily focuses on the links between building construction, equipment and systems installation and workforce training standards, and the energy efficiency of the finished building and the safety and health of the construction workforce and building occupants. Representing national model building code publishers, national training certification providers, and environmental, public health, consumer and labor organizations, ABJC has unparalleled experience in the legal and technical issues associated with the development and regulatory and legislative adoption of building codes, construction workforce training requirements, and energy efficiency programs at the local, state and national level.

As a direct result of the firm’s advocacy, the California state agencies responsible for approving new building standards began reviewing proposed standards under CEQA for the first time beginning in the early 1980s. The arguments and evidence presented by the firm in those CEQA proceedings led to the first in the nation restrictions on the uses of plastic drinking water and drain, waste and vent piping. Those restrictions included measures to limit the leaching of chemical contaminants into drinking water, protections for workers installing the pipe who were being regularly exposed to toxic chemicals contained in the solvents and glues used to join the pipe at levels above adopted health thresholds, regulation of products and construction methods to limit volatile organic compounds released during pipe installation that on a cumulative basis were significantly contributing to the state’s polluted air basins, and prohibitions on use of the pipe in certain occupancies due to increased fire risks. The evidence presented by the firm ultimately led the pipe manufacturers to change certain pipe formulations to eliminate the leaching of chloroform into drinking water.

The firm’s building standards advocacy has more recently focused on green building and energy efficiency initiatives. The firm has successfully advocated for regulatory changes to restrict the use of energy-inefficient flexible ducts, to close loopholes on advanced lighting control and demand response requirements in existing building upgrades, and to strengthen requirements to verify that equipment and systems are installed correctly and perform properly to ensure that expected energy savings are realized.

On behalf of a coalition of environmental, equity, educational and labor groups, the firm succeeded in persuading the California Public Utilities Commission to require public utilities to address installation quality as part of the billion-dollar-a-year utility energy efficiency incentive programs in order to maximize the energy savings achieved from these subsidies. The firm demonstrated that installation quality is a critical variable affecting the efficiency of building systems, and that poor-quality installation was pervasive due to the lack of training requirements for installers. The firm also successfully advocated on behalf of the coalition for new rules requiring utility incentive programs to ensure that the jobs created through these incentive programs are accessible to disadvantaged workers.

In 2020, ABJC took the lead in drafting and advocating for passage of AB 841, which created new incentive programs to replace unhealthy and inefficient HVAC systems and water fixtures in schools in underserved communities. The bill also streamlined approval of electric vehicle charging infrastructure throughout the state. AB 841 set forth a school reopening incentive program that assists school districts in meeting recommended ventilation and filtration standards to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to improve the health and performance of students, while at the same time reducing energy demand from inefficient and poorly functioning HVAC systems. AB 841 also created a program to replace outdated plumbing fixtures in schools that waste billions of gallons of potable water and can impact student health due to their high lead content.

The firm’s energy efficiency and green building standards practice involves advocacy before numerous state agencies, including the California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission, California Building Standards Commission, Department of Housing and Community Development, Department of Industrial Relations, Division of the State Architect, Office of the State Fire Marshal, Department of Water Resources and Contractors State License Board.