July 21, 2015
Today the Building Standards Commission (BSC) unanimously approved additional emergency regulations proposed by the Division of the State Architect (DSA), expanding upon the new water efficiency requirements previously adopted on May 29, 2015, for public schools and community college irrigated landscape areas. Today’s regulations provide additional implementation detail and supplant the regulations approved in the previous action, which were serving as a placeholder. Representatives from the Coalition for Adequate School Housing (C.A.S.H.) participated in the DSA stakeholder input process, and our feedback contributed to positive modifications that were incorporated in the final regulations, though the new requirements will still ultimately increase project costs.
The new outdoor water use regulations establish a structure for planning, designing, installing, maintaining, and managing water efficient landscapes, adopting the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO) developed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and housed in Title 23. Specific requirements and guidance include:
- New Construction Only – The new regulations now apply to new construction only; alterations (i.e. modernization) have been removed.
- Landscape Area Project Scope
o New construction and building additions of 1,000 square feet or greater will trigger new landscape requirements for area equating to 75 percent of the new building footprint. This is down from 100 percent of building footprint in prior versions of the proposal.
o Landscape project areas of 1,000 to 2,499 square feet are required to comply with new requirements regarding irrigation controls and sensors.
o Landscape project areas of 2,500 square feet or greater are required to meet the MWELO requirements with an Evapotranspiration Adjustment Factor (ETAF) of 0.65, with an additional water allowance for special landscape areas (SLAs) of 0.35. SLAs include areas dedicated to edible plants, planting areas for educational purposes, areas irrigated with recycled water and water features using recycled water, as well as areas where turf provides a playing surface or gathering space.
o Districts may rehabilitate existing landscape areas that are not included in the project’s scope of site work in order to meet the minimum landscape project area triggered by a new building. DSA has indicated that such work may be done on the project site or on another site within the district.
o If the project site already meets the MWELO requirements, the district is exempt from doing additional landscape area beyond the project’s scope of site work.
- Submittal Requirements and Enforcement – The design professional must self-certify that irrigation plans and specifications meet the new outdoor water use regulations in the California Green Building Standards Code, including the new MWELO provisions. A copy of the landscape plans will need to be submitted to DSA, and there will be an associated $500 flat fee to cover administrative costs. DSA will not be reviewing the plans for compliance with the new water efficiency regulations.
- Effective Date – State Architect Chet Widom stated today that he anticipates that the regulations will go into effect in October 2015, and it is unclear at this time how existing projects will be affected.
Because landscape is new territory for DSA, the full costs of this proposal are still unknown, though we do know that the regulations will ultimately increase costs and complexities for new construction projects. Today some of the BSC commissioners expressed interest in pursuing a cost-benefit analysis, and they were assured that DWR had done so in its development of the MWELO.
The emergency regulations must return to the BSC within 180 days for ratification before becoming permanent. They may be found at the following links. Note: A few minor amendments were made today by the BSC prior to adoption of the Express Terms, which are not reflected in this version of the proposal.
~ Rebekah Cearley