Climate Action in the Built Environment: 2023 Bills Signed by Governor Newsom

With budget woes looming large in the minds of the Legislature and the Governor, California was still able to make some advancements in the climate action space as it relates to the built environment. As experts on the effect of the built environment on climate, AIA CA believe it is incumbent upon the architectural profession to act; to address the grave challenge of climate change, natural resource depletion, and the devastating impacts these conditions have on climate-vulnerable communities. In line with these values, AIA CA was happy to be a part of the support coalition that pushed for the passage of the following bills signed by Governor Newsom this year:

  • AB 529 (Gabriel and Haney): Adaptive Reuse – Directs state agencies to modernize and update existing building standards for adaptive reuse construction and encourages local jurisdictions to promote infill development in order to be awarded a prohousing designation by the state.

    These efforts are seen as complimentary to AIA California’s own efforts to institute 7 new chapters of the International Existing Building Code into California’s Existing Building Code, which the California Building Standards Commission passed unanimously earlier this year. The international Existing Building Code provides three options, known as compliance paths, from which to choose: Prescriptive; Work Area; and Performance.  All three paths lead to safe, code-compliant buildings, but their differences allow design professionals significant latitude to find a code path best suited for a particular building challenge. The existing California code includes only the Prescriptive path effectively limiting potential for adaptive reuse. Read more about that here.
  • SB 48 (Becker): Building Energy Savings Act – Would require the Energy Commission, in consultation with the State Air Resources Board, Public Utilities Commission, and Department of Housing and Community Development, to develop a strategy to track and manage the energy usage and emissions of greenhouse gases of buildings over 50,000 square feet in order to meet the state’s goals related to energy usage and emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • SB 410 (Becker): Powering Up Californians Act – Costly delays in providing utility customers with necessary electrical service are already undermining progress in meeting California’s climate, air quality and equity goals. SB 410 would remove those barriers, holding utilities accountable to reasonable timelines for energization, and directing them to plan, hire, and build the grid necessary to meet federal, state, regional, and local decarbonization and air quality goals, standards, and regulations.
  • SB 416 (Laird): State Agencies: Building and Renovation Projects: LEED Certification – Would require all new building and major renovation projects larger than 10,000 gross square feet undertaken by state agencies, and for which the project schematic design documents are initiated by the state agency, to obtain the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or “LEED” Gold or higher certification. It also provides an avenue for state agencies to alternately meet the Silver certification if they make a finding that achieving the Gold certification conflicts with critical operation or security requirements, is demonstrably cost ineffective, or conflicts with California Building Code requirements.

AIA CA remains committed to doing our part to advance bills that improve the climate outlook for the built environment. We will continue to monitor climate bills that are introduced in coming legislative sessions and weigh in where necessary. More information on other climate related bills that were signed by the Governor this year can be found here.

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