CAL Green Code


CALGreen is the first mandatory green building code in the nation.1 Formally known as “California Building’s Standard Code – Part 11, Title 24, California Code of Regulations,” this code was developed to improve public health, safety, and general welfare by enhancing the design and construction of buildings. The code’s impact on the environment is the equivalent of removing 12 million cars from the road or saving 6 billion gasoline gallons a year.11


The code focuses on 5 key divisions:2


  1. Planning and design
  2. Energy efficiency
  3. Water efficiency and conservation
  4. Research efficiency
  5. Environmental quality

CALGreen is a model for code development organizations around the nation.1 While the standard was developed and used in California, its exemplary strategies can provide a model for building health and sustainability everywhere. Local CALGreen checklists facilitate the understanding of the code’s mandatory standards, which you can easily integrate into project specifications.


Digging deeper:


Some aspects of CALGreen cover indoor air quality but much of its implementation relates to how buildings operate, like energy and water conservation.10


  • To comply with CALGreen, products like paints, adhesive sealants, and caulking substances must adhere to VOC regulations, ensuring that the VOCs which are known to produce cancer are less likely to be emitted into the air.8
  • The code also discourages the use of vinyl flooring and carpeting, both notorious for containing chemicals like phthalates, which are linked to respiratory and reproductive issues after long-term exposure.8

The significance of CALGreen is not only an action plan to reduce greenhouse gases through building operations, but its subsequent success in doing so.


Why it matters: 


CALGreen has proven to successfully counteract global warming and regulate harmful toxins. 


  • The code’s mandatory application has reduced greenhouse pollution in California below 1990 levels since emissions peaked in 2004.1

Best of all: CALGreen’s strategies can be integrated into building specs! (See below.)


✓ Apply the following CALGreen Considerations on your next project:


  • Avoid unnecessary paints and adhesive sealants (and the associated effects of VOCs). Instead, specify color concrete, which does not warrant repainting.10
  • Spec paints that comply with these VOC limits.
  • If caulk must be used, use products with low VOC concentrations (50g/L). 5
  • Spec caulk and sealants that are Greenguard Gold certified. Water-based latex options are relatively less toxic. Be sure to save this guide on caulks, sealants, and adhesives. 9
  • Choose flooring options that stray away from PVC flooring. Consider bio-based floorings like Armstrong Bio-Based tiles which are free of plasticizers, ortho-phthalates, halogens, and other red-list chemicals that are hazardous.9
  • Create a waste management plan that reuses and recycles construction/demolition materials to keep them out of landfills.4

Take a look at these CAL Green Checklists created by Napa County and see if you can integrate any of these requirements into your standard spec!