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City of Richmond – Green Building Program to Address Climate Change

Case Story

Climate Action Connection: Green Building

Requiring new and renovated residential and commercial structures to comply with green building standards ensures that future construction will contribute to lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Community:Richmond (Contra Costa County)

Population: 100,500


Richmond’s green building ordinance requires mandatory compliance for all new and enlarged single and multi-family residential projects, as well as for new and renovated commercial/industrial projects. The green building requirements vary depending upon the size of the building.

Program Highlights

  • Compliance tiers and thresholds based on size of structure.
  • Minimum 50 GreenPoint Rated points required for new and expanded residential structures; minimum 60 points for new multi-family.
  • Minimum LEED certification required for new commercial buildings; specified percentage of possible LEED points required for commercial renovations.

Lessons Learned

  • Sometimes it is important to engage staff from different city departments (i.e., planning, public works, environmental) for their input and concurrence before engaging the public.
  • Having an energy consultant review recommended green building standards can be useful in determining effectiveness of the proposed program.

Resources to Learn More

The Rest of the Story…

Richmond is a large San Francisco Bay Area community with a significant number of large commercial and industrial businesses. In March of 2009, Richmond released the results of its municipal and community wide greenhouse gas inventory. The inventory projects that while emissions from residences will increase 9.1 percent by 2020, emissions from commercial and industrial users will increase 31.9 percent. Thus, the green building requirements that apply to both residential and commercial/industrial buildings will be important as part of the city’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Customized Tiered Approach

In July 2009, Richmond adopted its green building ordinance, becoming the first city in Contra Costa County to take such action. Richmond’s unique program requirements are based on the size of the structure, as follows:

  • Single family residences under 1,750 square feet must earn 50 green points on the GreenPoint Rated checklist; larger buildings must earn 55 points, plus two additional points for every 100 additional square feet over 1,750 square feet.
  • Additions to single family and duplexes that are subject to design review must earn 50 green points, plus two more points for each 100 square feet over 1,200 square feet.
  • Multi-family projects must earn 60 points on the GreenPoint Rated checklist.
  • New commercial buildings between 5,000 – 20,000 square feet must meet LEED certification standards; larger buildings must meet LEED Silver standards.
  • Renovations on commercial buildings 5,000 – 20,000 square feet must earn 35 percent of all possible LEED points.
  • Renovations on commercial buildings larger than 20,000 square feet must earn 45 percent of all possible LEED points.
Certification of Projects

All employees in Richmond’s Planning and Building Services Department are or will be certified green building professionals in the Built It Green program. All residential projects subject to Richmond’s ordinance will receive final certification from city staff. This will save building permit applicants the cost of hiring an outside expert for final green certification. Commercial and industrial projects are required to hire LEED accredited professionals to assist with project planning and final certification.

Compiled May 2009

This case story was prepared in partnership with the California Air Resources Board.

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