“California on Thursday became the first state in the nation to approve green building standards to cut energy and water usage, a move that officials say will help the state meet its ambitious goals to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
The plan, adopted by the California Building Standards Commission, requires that all new construction – from commercial buildings to homes, schools and hospitals – reduce energy usage by 15 percent, water use by 20 percent and water for landscaping by 50 percent. A voluntary form of the code is scheduled to kick in on July 1, 2009.”
“The rules do not specify how to make the reductions, but ideas range from installing energy-efficient appliances and increasing natural lighting to using low-flow toilets and planting drought-resistant vegetation. The code will be voluntary while the commission works on a mandatory regulation, which the panel hopes to have in place by end of 2010 or beginning of 2011…”
State is first to OK green building standards [SFGate]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by ex SF-er

    I applaud these new guidelines. But the key will be WATER restrictions. it’s not as big of a deal in Northern cal yet, but Southern Cal is facing major future water issues.
    already the Great Lakes States and the associated Canadian Provinces have made a treaty that they will not export water out of the Lakes (in other words, the proposed water pipeline between MN/IL to California will never happen).
    and there are lawsuits galore between CA/AZ/NV about water rights to the Colorado River.
    it also has major ramifications for Californian farming, since much of that farmland isn’t “supposed” to be there, it’s only there due to irrigation by water rerouting. we may see a seachange if SoCal starts running out of water. they may try to pull NorCal irrigation water for SoCal uses.
    it’s better to start trying to conserve as much water now before it becomes a problem (the opposite of what we did with oil).

  2. Posted by Brutus

    Even now, more than 50% of the water that California pulls from the Colorado is used for agriculture, including mostly “bad” agriculture in the Imperial Valley (like growing alfalfa in the desert). There STILL isn’t even close to being a shortage of water for the CO river recipients, but simply massive misallocation of water. At some point in time, someone will have to stand up to the farm lobbies and either take some of their water rights away, or mandate that certain crops or irrigation types must be used.
    There is also a pretty big body of water off of our coast. Current polling indicates a new willingness for Californians to build nuclear – so desalinization starts to become a real option.

  3. Posted by ex SF-er

    There STILL isn’t even close to being a shortage of water for the CO river recipients
    not sure I agree with this. I have some acquaintances that worked for years to get an agreement through the 7 states regarding water conservation (finally passed in Dec 2007)
    according to them, there has been a severe drought and now the 2 most important reservoirs (Lake Mead and Lake Powell) are only at half capacity.
    the new agreement puts in water draw restrictions based on water level variables. if the drought continues then the states may see restrictions (ie rationing) as early as 2010.
    this had been exacerbated by the uncontrolled population growth in the desert. however, with the housing “bust” many hope that population will drop which will reduce the pressure on the Colorado River.

  4. Posted by Brutus

    Ok, I should have said that there still isn’t a REASON for a shortage of water. Las Vegas has seen tremendous growth over the past few decades and STILL uses less than 5% as much Colorado River water as does the agricultural areas of Southern Cal. Even the urban areas of Southern Cal use less than 30% of the total used for agriculture down there. SOME of that agricultural water is necessary for the good of everyone (crops that make sense to be grown there), but a large percentage is used for extremely water-intensive crops like alfalfa and cotton, which have no business being grown in the desert.

  5. Posted by ak

    does this mean you can only install fluorescent lighting for a kitchen remodel? I hate fluorescent light…

  6. Posted by ex SF-er

    ak:
    I too hate fluorescent lights, but we installed compact fluorescent lights in our home a year or two ago, and they look identical to regular lights.
    they are super advanced and much better than the ones in the 1980s
    just stay away from the ones that are supposed to emulate daylight… those ones have an odd blue tinge to them.

  7. Posted by ExAgent

    New and remodeled kitchens are supposed to have fluorescents. The game people play is to wire a cheap fluorescent fixture and then replace it as soon as they have passed their final inspection.

  8. Posted by ummm

    Actually the Title 24 guidelines do not require fluorescents only in the kitchen, they require that every watt of incandescent be matched with a watt of fluorescent. Two 50w halogen pendants? That means six 18w fluorescents must also be installed. The old Title 24 requirement of “first switch” and “general lighting must be fluorescent” was a much better solution. Energy use dedicated to lighting in kitchen is now much higher now because you pack as many fluorescents as you can just so you can have some incandescent task lighting. And, with all due respect, compact fluorescents do not give the same quality of light. Even high color warm fluorescent lamps do not match crisp, clear halogen lighting. And dimmable fluorescents turn sickly white as soon as you dim them.

  9. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Brutus – Those bogus crops like alfalfa, cotton, and rice are just place holders. The land owner is simply trying to keep a grip on their water rights which might be more valuable than the land itself. Water rights are a “use it or lose it” commodity. If you let the land go fallow, the district reallocates your rights to someone else who will “use” them.
    These bogus crop farmers are hoping to one day sit at the bargaining table to swap their water rights for cash.
    Man o man, I sure hope that CA doesn’t go into desalination for water. Talk about a misallocation of energy assets : desalination is the poster child for energy waste. It makes sense when you live in a place like the Arabian Peninsula, but not here.
    On fluorescents : ExAgent has the scoop. The post inspection swap out is one of the oldest tricks in the book. The building code has stated that the switch nearest any doorway entering a kitchen must switch on fluorescents. You can still have other non-fluoro lighting circuits in the kitchen too, they just have to be controlled by “secondary” switches. Its been that way for at least a decade.
    Personally I like the new fluorescents. I really can’t tell the difference except when looking at the PG&E bill.

  10. Posted by ex SF-er

    “ummm”…
    we don’t have any dimmable fluorescent bulbs, so I can’t say anything about that.
    I’m sure that there is a difference between light quality of CFL’s and halogens, but I’d guess the large majority of people won’t notice the difference (especially when they’re behind a shade). sort of like a $15,000 stereo system. it may have better sound quality than Bose, but most of us can’t tell.
    we have fluorescent can lights in the kitchen that we use as task lighting, as well as a few halogen can lights from before we made the switch. The only thing I dislike about the fluorescents is that it takes them about a minute to “warm up” before they are bright. (this only happens with our can lights, not the rest of the house. the rest of the house the CFLs takes about 1/2 second to come on which took me a while to get used to but now I don’t notice it)
    but all the other ones (Living room, dining, bedrooms, etc) are completely not noticeable to the average person. at least not anybody that I know.
    but like I said, there are some CFLs that are supposed to emulate “daylight” and those DO have an odd sickly blueish tinge to them and I hate them.
    we went to CFLs as a “let’s try it” sort of thing and now we wouldn’t consider going back EXCEPT for a few halogens in the kitchen so that we have immediate bright task lighting. (I think we have 2 halogen bulbs and 6 fluorescent bulbs in the kitchen… all other bulbs in the house are compact fluorescent). since we went, a lot of our friends have made the switch as well.
    anyway: I’d encourage people to try them. we did it grudgingly and we ended up really liking them. I like them the most because I have a 100 year old house that tends to short out lights more often than new houses. I never have to change the CFL’s, even with my house! plus it’s nice to conserve on energy, even if it’s just a little bit.

  11. Posted by sparky

    ummm,
    I couldn’t agree more, the old code was much better. Plus because the new code is on watts and not lumen, you get no credit for LED instead of flourescent because they don’t use enough energy. 2 50w halogen, 50 2w LED. Currently I am putting like 5 switches to a kitchen and way more lights than anyone wants in order to dance with the code.

  12. Posted by sparky

    ex-SFer,
    I agree with you in general but as you said you have 2 halogen kitchen bulbs for task lighting, only if they are 50w can you have 6 flourescent cans. If they are brighter you need more cans.

  13. Posted by Eoral

    I am doing a green remodel out in the Sunset, a single family Doelger. It is fun bringing a comprehensive green perspective to remodeling as there are a lot of options available. The newer dimmible CLF’s are very cool, and the light quality from the energy star recessed light cans I installed is excellent. I also installed some LED lighting. and though the lumen output is still not quite strong enough, they are getting very good and should be viable alternatives soon. LEDs use even less power than a CFL, and they have no mercury so disposal is less problematic. Also they are supposed to last even longer then a CFL, so you consume less over time.
    If you have to put on a roof, and I did, the cutting in some skylights is also great. Natural light cannot be beat, and its free. If you can flash the skylights properly, and install good dual pained units so you cut down on energy leakage, it is an excellent option.
    Lets also remember insulation. SF does not have the wide temperature fluctuations as other places of course, which is why a lot of the older homes either skimped on insulation, or if they were retrofitted they were stuffed with formaldehyde soaked pick fiberglass. Formaldehyde out gassing was a cause of indoor air pollution in the FEMA trailers used to house hurricane Katrina victims, and many became sick as a consequence. Homes can be insulated to R values of 30+ with non toxic material like shredded phone books, recycled blue jeans, and water based polyurethane foam. The result is an energy efficient home, warm in the foggy SF summers, cool during the nice August hot spells, clean for the air you and your kids breathe while you sleep, quiet as the volume of insulation cuts down on the noise all of us people in attached SF homes hear when our neighbors turn on the music =), and safe when the times comes for the material to be removed and taken to a landfill or some other use.
    I used all of these items in my rebuild, and I am happy as can be. I hope these kinds of materials become the standard.

  14. Posted by ummm

    Ex-sfer,
    Glad you are happy with your decision. The only satisfactory application of fluorescent lights that we and our clients find acceptable is over cabinet and under cabinet fixtures. Recessed can lights fluorescents are not acceptable, even with a specular reflector. The light is too diffuse and unfocused. Compact fluorescents are great replacement for “A” lamps though, especially, as you point out, when there is a shade.
    Sparky, totally with you on the LED thing.

  15. Posted by David

    It’s retarded to grow melon crops and leaf lettuce and cotton in the desert. That’s what we have Arkansas and Mississippi for.

  16. Posted by ex SF-er

    sparky:
    my current house isn’t in SF, so I’m immune to these halogen vs fluorescent rules.
    ummm:
    yeah, maybe I’d be really unhappy if all the can-lights were CFLs. I’m not sure because I haven’t done it yet, we have the 2 halogens in there too.
    but I don’t have granite countertops or a Subzero Fridge or a Wolff range so I’m pretty low key kinda guy… not like a lot of people who need high end everything. I’m guessing your customers are a little more discriminating in that sort of stuff…

  17. Posted by noearch

    a 36″ wide Sub-zero refrig/freezer uses the same or less energy as a standard freestanding low end frig..say from Sears..
    it’s a myth that high-end means high cost for energy.

  18. Posted by ex SF-er

    I didn’t mean to imply that high end meant high energy usage.
    I meant to imply that I am frugal and thus others may strongly react to things I don’t even notice, such as bad lighting caused by CFLs.
    again, it’s like Bose vs Kharma speakers or a regular violin vs a Stradivarius. I can’t tell the difference, but I’m sure an afficionado could.
    likewise, for the most part I can’t tell the difference in lighting between the CFLs that I have and the Halogens, except that the CFL’s take a half second extra to turn on, and the can lights in the Kitchen take about a minute to warm up (I don’t like that latter thing). but overall I haven’t had a hard time chopping veggies or anything. and again, I do have 2 halogens in my kitchen since they haven’t burned out yet so maybe that’s why.
    ummm is clearly more discriminating when it comes to light quality. s/he would never consider doing what I did in my kitchen. and again, I’m sure there is a difference… i just can’t see it.

  19. Posted by noearch

    exSF-er-
    yea, I basically agree with you. Light quality can be very subtle..and often not a perceptible difference from one light type to another. the new breed of fluorescents, whether cfls or t-8, t-14, etc. all serve a good purpose and produce good light.
    and yes, a Subzero basically does the same thing as a low end refrig…they each serve their purpose and client taste and style..and budget.

  20. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    I prefer the diffuse lighting from normal incandescent bulbs (white glass) or CFLs for task lighting. The sharp shadows that halogens cast are distracting.
    My kitchen has 6 can fixtures designed for incandescents but replaced with CFLs. That combined with a big skylight and under counter fluorescents really kicks out a lot of light. I can’t imagine needing any more.
    Total wattage is about 150W.

  21. Posted by ex SF-er

    “…and budget”
    hey!!!! are you calling me poor? or cheap?
    :)

  22. Posted by EBGuy

    I have been trying out CFLs in two recessed (non dimmable) cans for the past couple of years and it has been a disaster. I’ve replaced 3 CLFs in that amount of time; I’m guessing there’s heat dissipation issues.
    Many thanks to those who are Title 24 savvy for the rundown on current and “historic” perspectives.

  23. Posted by EBGuy

    Here is the “road to hell is paved with good intentions” quote from the article I just posted. Not only do we need to replace incandescent lights, but we have to be concerned about disposal… and then read the users manual for proper operation (actually, I don’t think there is a user’s manual, so we have to stumble across articles like this).
    “But if you are a homeowner or renter who is conscientious about turning off lights each time you leave a room, you may find that one of these highly expensive bulbs doesn’t make it past six months.” Atkins does use a few CFLs in her apartment, but she has reverted to incandescents in many of her fixtures.
    The California Energy Commission recommends CFLs in settings where they will be left on for an hour or more a day. That may call for readjustment of the admirable impulse to turn off lights whenever you leave a room; if they’re CFLs and you’re returning in 15 minutes or fewer, it’s better to leave them on.

  24. Posted by fred

    I have noticed in my new house that a lot of these new technology bulbs burn out quickly and are costly to replace. Makes you yearn for the old days of 50 cent bulbs. One cabinet bulb in the kitchen kept going out so we stopped replacing it at $5 a pop. Hopefully technology advances can address this.

  25. Posted by Eoral

    For appliances, whether or not one carries the Energy Star label is more descriptive of its energy savings than the brand name (Wolf, Sub Zero, et al).

  26. Posted by ex SF-er

    hmmm… maybe I am using a different product than y’all.
    I’m using something like this
    and in the kitchen it’s something like this.
    I get them from home depot or costco or my local hardware store, and the 60 watt analogues are usually around $1-1.50 a piece. (so a pack of 8 for $8-11 or so). the 75 watt analogues are around $2-3 each or so.
    the kitchen can lights are like $5-7 a piece or so.
    I’ve never replaced any of them but I’ve only had them in for maybe a year and a half. the one on my front porch has been on 24 hours a day since winter 2006-7. I don’t remember exactly when I put them all in, I only know that it was winter 1.5 years ago.
    I’ve tried 3 diferent kinds of CF bulbs. the “daylight” which I hated. and 2 other kinds but I can’t remember what they were called. The Home depot website shows “soft white” and “bright white”-maybe that’s it. I’m not sure if those were the 2 others I tried. One of the two I tried I disliked and returned right away, the other ones we love.
    if people are interested I can try to find the package when I get home.

  27. Posted by Rudolf Lightcap

    “It’s retarded to grow melon crops and leaf lettuce and cotton in the desert. That’s what we have Arkansas and Mississippi for.”
    Wait, I thought we should have everything grown locally because that means it is sustainable? Oh no, is it actually more complicated than that? Instead of growing cotton locally or importing it from the south, we should focus on wearing only clothing made out of petroleum products refined in Martinez.

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