Positively Green | May 20, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - May 20, 2011

Positively Green

New regulations apply to remodeling projects, too

by Iris Harrell

The new CalGreen building code came into effect Jan. 1, 2011. Why should you care? All new construction (both commercial and residential) must completely comply with these new regulations. Many home-remodeling projects must also comply.

Getting a building permit will require extra steps in design plans, permit drawings and new construction details that must be completed before a final inspection and occupancy can happen.

More energy efficiency, water-material conservation and environmental controls will be required. Rather than getting upset about yet another state law, I try to look at what California is trying to achieve. Put very simplistically, our state government is trying to keep California from running out of water and energy, which would create a huge crisis for all of us. No one likes brown outs and water rationing, but in the future this could be avoided if we all start to comply.

The other thing we are running out of is dump space, caused by the demolition process during construction. Requiring dumping to meet a certain percentage of recycling is the only way to keep us from making our state a wasteland. We all know that California real estate is too valuable to become a trash heap.

Most local cities and towns have already adopted Build It Green's checklist as a "measuring stick" for meeting these new requirements. While there is a lot of overlap between BIG and LEED programs, Build It Green's checklist was created specifically for residences and is not as complicated or costly as the LEED certification checklist and program. In my April 15, 2011, article I mentioned four of the new requirements, which included low-flow toilets to hit 1.28 gallons per flush, storm-water management on each home's property, low-VOC paints and the elimination of wood-burning fireplaces.

There are a lot of other items included in this new CalGreen code that appear on Build It Green's checklist. Here are a few of the highlights:

1. Fire sprinklers will be required for the entire home if a remodel involves 50 percent or more of the home.

2. All new and replacement residential guardrails need to be 42" high instead of 36".

3. AFCI electrical outlets are required in all habitable areas of the home, not just bedrooms. This may require some work at the electrical panel.

4. Framing for new walls and additions cannot exceed 19 percent moisture level when Sheetrock is needed to be installed. Enclosing wet wood can cause mold and mildew problems and it causes Sheetrock cracks and nail pops as the wood shrinks over time. You will probably notice more protection being provided for new framing lumber as it is delivered to jobsites. Also there will be more plastic used to protect new framing from rain. There will also be more "down time" after framing is complete before insulation and Sheetrock are installed.

5. Bathroom exhaust fans will be required in every bathroom that has a shower or tub. Having a ventilating window in the bathroom used to be all that was required. I am excited about this requirement as an open window on a damp cold morning has never taken steam from showers out of a bathroom. Moldy bathrooms often exist because there is no exhaust fan.

6. If you are adding a second story, exiting from floors above the first floor has been revised to limit the maximum travel distance to 50 feet. This would apply to new basements as well.

7. Each construction permit requires a construction waste-management plan in writing. At least 50 percent of the construction waste must be diverted from the landfill. Zanker Waste Management facility guarantees that 85 percent of the waste received is recycled. Forms must be used to prove how and when this diversion happened.

8. All new equipment included in a new home or remodel must have an owner's operation and maintenance manual that is given to the homeowner. These must be observed by the building inspector at final inspection. This may sound trite, but I know from having my own remodel at my home how often I have pulled out those manuals for information on my appliances and new heating equipment.

I hope these highlighted examples help you understand what is coming to your home and your neighborhood as homes are upgraded.

Iris Harrell is CEO and president of Harrell Remodeling, Inc. in Mountain View (www.harrell-remodeling.com). She can be reached at 650-230-2900 or irish@harrell-remodeling.com.


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