Snapshot on Sustainability: New Policies and Bills to Watch

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By: Jennifer Tung
Jennifer is an associate with Hunt Ortmann Paiffy Nieves Darling & Mah, Inc.

Spring is officially here!  Full of new possibilities, it is a time of renewal and recharge.  It’s also a time of new local and statewide policy proposals!  So what better time than now to reflect on some of the exciting sustainability developments that are taking root both here in Los Angeles and across the state.

Last month, Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled Los Angeles’ very own “Green New Deal”—the 2019 Sustainable City pLAn.  An update to the 2015 pLAn, version 2019 envisions sweeping changes to everything from car culture, to air quality, to urban planning in Los Angeles.

Notably, the 2019 Sustainable City pLAn expands upon previously set targets for building efficiency. For example, while the previous pLAn envisioned a 14-percent reduction of energy use per square foot for all buildings by 2025, and a 30-percent reduction by 2035, those goals have been increased to a 22-percent reduction from all buildings by 2025, and 44-percent reduction by 2050.

Similarly, the goal in 2015 was to utilize energy efficiency to deliver 15-percent of Los Angeles’ projected electricity needs by 2020. The 2019 Sustainable City pLAn expands upon this target by including a 30-percent goal by 2030.

And a fun Easter Egg for those that may have missed it: the 2019 Sustainable City pLAn provides that all new buildings will be net zero carbon by 2030, while 100-percent of buildings will be net zero carbon by 2050.  This recommits Los Angeles to a pledge it made last fall when it signed the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Declaration.

With buildings accounting for 25-percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, it is no wonder that building efficiency will play a central role in Los Angeles (and California) achieving their sustainability targets.  In fact, USGBC-LA just launched the Net Zero Accelerator—a partner initiative to the 2019 Sustainable City pLAn focused on new technologies to help make zero carbon, zero energy, zero water, and zero waste buildings a reality for the entire region.

Unsurprisingly, the local level is not the only place where Californians can see movement in green building.  Being true to form, California state legislators introduced bills this past year aimed at making the state’s building and construction sectors leaner and greener.  For example, the current version of Assembly Bill (AB) 966 (Cement plants) would require that each cement plant operating in the state prepare and submit current facility-specific Environmental Product Declarations by January 1, 2022.

Readers may recall that, in 2017, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 262 into law, enacting the Buy Clean California Act.  This requires state agencies, the University of California, and the California State University systems to award projects to contractors certifying that the embedded carbon emissions for certain materials meet specific standards.  Initially applicable to contracts entered on or after July 1, 2019, AB 262 will now apply to contracts entered into on or after July 1, 2021. (Also see USGBC-LA’s Buy Clean Program.)

Similar to AB 262, AB 572 (California Deforestation-Free Procurement Act), which was introduced earlier this year, would also impact contracts entered into between contractors and state agencies.  Among other requirements, the current version of AB 572 requires those contracting with a state agency on or after January 1, 2022 to certify that forest-risk commodities were not sourced from land where deforestation occurred on or after January 1, 2019.

So where do we go from here?  Even if neither AB 966 nor AB 572 become law, we can probably expect to see many proposals in the future targeting both the construction supply chain and public contracts as a way of reaching California’s green objectives.  Additionally, while sweeping policy goals, such as those set forth in the 2019 Sustainable City pLAn are important (and inspirational), it will likely be up to building code reboots and government incentive plans to do most of the heavy lifting.  Sustainability requirements they are always a-changin’—so stay tuned!

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