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Adoption of the 2013 California Building Standards Code and its Potential Impact on Residential and Commercial Property Owners

construction .jpgOn January 29, 2013, the California Building Standards Commission announced the adoption of the 2013 California Building Standards Code (“CBSC” or “Code”). By law, the public is given 180-days (six months) to review the new code before it goes into effect. Although the new code will not be published until July 1, 2013 and does not go into effect until January 1, 2014, California property owners can get a head start now by learning about some of these changes early. Since the changes to the CBSC will impact both newly constructed buildings and homes, and additions and alterations to older buildings, California commercial and residential property owners will likely be affected by these changes.

The adoption of the 2013 Code comes after a multi-state agency and stakeholder update of the 2010 building codes. Specifically, the Department of Housing and Community Development, Division of the State Architect, Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, Office of the State Fire Marshal, Department of Public Health, the California Energy Commission, industry stakeholders and members of the public all participated in the development of the new code. In making these revisions, the California Building Standards Commission Director, Jim McGowan, stated that the Commission’s objective is “to produce a practical building code that ensures public safety first and foremost while implementing the most efficient technology available to conserve the state’s natural resources and energy use”. He added, “California’s building code is applied to virtually every commercial and residential structure in the state.”

Among the important updates to the 2013 Code:

  • An extensive update of California’s Energy Code;
  • Updated California Green Building Code–CALGreen–requirements for nonresidential building alterations and additions;
  • Division of the State Architect’s adoption of the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act standards with California amendments;
  • New plumbing code provisions pertaining to greywater and rainwater catchments.

Updates to California’s Energy Code and California Green Building Code

The updated standards will improve upon the 2008 California Energy Code Standards and will implement a number of state energy policy directives, including but not limited to, the following:

  • GreenHouseGas (GHG) considerations, since building are second only to transportation in producing GHG emissions. Legislation and executive orders have established goals of reducing GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.
  • New building standards must achieve “net zero energy” levels by 2020 for residential property and by 2030 for commercial buildings.
  • The Green Building Standards Code calls for graded efficiency levels of 15 percent and 30 percent more rigorous than the previous mandatory standards. Although the goals are merely voluntary on a statewide basis, local jurisdictions may elect to adopt the Green Building Standards Code as mandatory at the local level.

In addition, the changes emphasize several essential areas to improve the energy efficiency not only of new constructions, but also additions and alterations of existing buildings. These changes will help reduce electricity demand reductions during critical peak periods and enable simple and efficient future solar system installations.

Some of the most important changes to the standards affecting efficiency are those proposed for windows, the building envelope (wall, ceiling and floor) insulation and the testing of HVAC systems. Moreover, changes for all building types include mandatory requirements for windows and building envelopes.

California Accessibility Standards to Become Consistent with Federal ADA Standards

Until now, California’s accessibility standards differed from the accessibility standards under federal law, making it difficult for businesses and property owners to comply with both sets of standards. However, the 2013 Code revises the California standards to finally bring them in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), resulting in a single set of requirements that meet both state and federal accessibility requirements. Specifically, according to the California Department General Services, the 2013 Code will align existing California and federal access regulations for everything ranging from parking spaces, drinking fountains, signs, and handrails to housing and transportation facilities. In revising the CBSC, the Department of State Architect -together with accessibility experts–analyzed more than 2,500 items from the 2010 CBSC and 2010 ADA Standards to determine which provisions provided greater accessibility. Aside from those items referenced above, the 2013 CBC also includes provisions for recreational facilities, including amusement rides, playgrounds, golf courses and fishing piers.

If you have any questions about any of the 2013 updates to the California Building Standards Code and/or are concerned about how these changes will affect your residential or commercial properties, our Pleasanton real estate attorneys can help. You can contact one of our real estate lawyers using our online contact form, or by calling us at 925-463-1073.