Already a trendsetter among states in the national movement to combat climate change, California has taken another bold step to help solidify that reputation.

On Jan. 12, 2010, the state’s Building Standards Commission unanimously adopted the first-in-the nation mandatory Green Building Standards Code. Apparently, with all the buzz and incentives revolving around environmentally friendly construction practices, voluntary is not enough.

Dubbed “CALGreen,” the regulations will go into effect Jan. 1, 2011. The code will require mandatory inspections of energy systems (such as furnaces, heat pumps, air conditioners and other mechanical equipment) for nonresidential buildings with more than 10,000 square feet of floor space, ensuring that the energy systems are working at their maximum capacity and according to their design efficiencies. Leaving no stone unturned, the code will also require that every new building constructed in California reduce water consumption by 20 percent, divert 50 percent of construction waste from landfills, and feature installed materials that emit low amounts of indoor pollutants. Separate water meters will also be required for nonresidential buildings’ indoor and outdoor water use, with a requirement for moisture-sensing irrigation systems for larger landscape projects.

The purposes of the water provisions are twofold. The state faces perpetual water shortages, but water consumption is also directly tied to energy consumption. In its announcement of CALGreen, the California Energy Commission (CEC) cites one of its own studies from 2005, which found that water use consumes 19 percent of the state’s electricity, 30 percent of its natural gas and at least 88 billion gallons of diesel fuel per year.

The regulations may also be a selling point, or at least a point of pride, for building owners. Upon passing state building inspection, property owners will have the ability to label their facilities as CALGreen-compliant without using additional costly third-party certification programs.

CALGreen is part of what is shaping up to be a comprehensive statewide agenda to tackle global warming and set the standard for the rest of the nation. In 2006, the state launched the Million Solar Roofs plan, designed to reach 1 million solar roofs in California by 2018. Two years later, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order that raised the state’s renewable-energy goals to 33 percent by 2020.