With a new set of building codes taking effect, the building industry in California has new standards for going green, and the state once again preserves its spot as the nation’s energy trailblazer.

The Green Building Standards Code took effect in California on Aug. 1, 2009. The California Building Standards Commission unanimously approved the codes, the nation’s first statewide green building codes, in the summer of 2008.

The new Green Building Standards Code exceeds the state’s Title 24 building energy-efficiency standards, which also were strengthened last year. The requirements set new, higher standards for construction, including a 20 percent reduction in the use of potable water. The code establishes a two-tiered 15 or 30 percent energy reduction above current levels for all buildings through a combination of more efficient appliances and windows, better insulation and other upgrades. The code also encourages the use of recycled materials in carpets and building materials and identifies various site improvements, including parking for hybrid vehicles and better storm water plans. Also, the new code contains standards for single-family homes, healthcare facilities and commercial buildings.

To avoid pushing too hard, the new codes are voluntary, for now. However, mandatory rules are scheduled for completion by the end of 2010. This adjustment period will allow for industry and local enforcement agencies to prepare for, and comply with, the new green building standards.