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City of Santa Rosa – Green Building Program to Address Climate Change

Case Story

Climate Action Connection: Green Building

Green building programs that focus on both new and existing buildings have the greatest potential for overall carbon reduction.

Community:Santa Rosa (Sonoma County)

Population: 158,000


Santa Rosa’s green building program covers new and existing residential and commercial buildings to assist the city in achieving its greenhouse gas reduction goal of 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2015.

Program Highlights

  • Mandatory green building requirements for all new residential and commercial structures.
  • New residential construction must earn 50 points on GreenPoint Rated checklist; new commercial buildings must earn 20 points on LEED.
  • Program expansion to include energy retrofits of existing homes and may increase required points for existing program.

Lessons Learned

  • Talk to all sectors affected by the proposed green building standards.
  • Builders and residents want to be more energy efficient but they need be shown the way.
  • Builders are more readily persuaded by green building’s financial benefits because green building is cost effective over the long term.

Resources to Learn More

The Rest of the Story…

Santa Rosa was one of the first cities in California to adopt a green building program. Preceded by two years of planning, the program initially was voluntary when it was first adopted in 2004. Approximately 100 homes were built to green standards during the voluntary phase. In January 2008, green building standards became mandatory for all new residential and commercial buildings.

Santa Rosa initiated its green building program in conjunction with other cities in Sonoma County. While all the cities within Sonoma County have adopted the same greenhouse gas reduction goal of 25 percent of 1990 levels by 2015, not all have adopted the same green building program.

Santa Rosa adopted Build It Green and LEED. New residential building must earn a minimum of 50 points on the GreenPoint Rated checklist and commercial structures must earn 20 points on LEED’s checklist. Project applicants must hire a certified rater for project design and final certification. Currently the program does not apply to remodeled projects.

Going Beyond Basic Requirements

The Santa Rosa City Council has indicated an interest in moving beyond minimum requirements for both new residential and new commercial structures. Staff is currently evaluating the possibility of requiring new residential structures to earn 100 points on the GreenPoint Rated checklist (effectively requiring 15 percent greater energy efficiency than the 2009 Title 24 energy requirements) and commercial structures to earn 26 points on LEED (the equivalent of LEED certified).

Recognizing that existing buildings represent a large part of citywide energy use, Santa Rosa also is actively exploring an energy retrofit program for existing buildings. This includes a possible mandatory audit of all existing 85,000 homes in the city. The city may use U.S. Department of Energy money it receives from the federal stimulus program to help finance the energy efficiency retrofits. 

Compiled May 2009

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

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