Green Building

Green building uses our resources with less waste and pollution to build healthier structures.

A green building also lowers operating costs over the life of the building.

Many green building measures have little or no increase in building costs while still saving on long-term building operations.

Green Building Programs at CalRecycle

The Green Building Executive Order
Executive Order B-18-12 requires the design, construction, operation, and renovation of state-owned facilities to have LEED Silver or higher certification. 

What Are the Elements of Green Buildings?


  • Select a site near mass transit.
  • Protect and retain existing landscaping and natural features.
    • Select plants that:
      • Have low water and pesticide needs
      • Generate minimum plant trimmings
    • Use compost and mulch to save water and time.

Energy Efficiency

  • Increase a building’s energy performance with passive design, such as:
    • Building shape and direction
    • Solar design
    • Use of natural lighting
  • Install high-efficiency lighting systems with advanced lighting controls.
    • Include motion sensors tied to dimmable lighting controls.
  • Use a properly sized, energy-efficient heating and cooling system and a thermally efficient building shell.
    • Maximize light colors for roofing and wall finish materials.
    • Install high thermal performance insulation.
    • Use minimal glass on east and west exposures.
  • Minimize the electric loads from lighting, equipment, and appliances.

Water Efficiency

  • Recycle water using:
    • Dual plumbing to flush toilets with recycled water
    • Gray water systems to recover rainwater or other nonpotable water for outside irrigation.
  • Use low-flush toilets and low-flow shower heads.
  • Use recirculating systems for centralized hot water distribution.
  • Install point-of-use water heating systems for more distant locations.
  • Schedule irrigation using the California Irrigation Management Information System data for landscaping.
  • Use irrigation controllers and self-closing nozzles on hoses.

Materials Efficiency

  • Select sustainable construction materials and products by evaluating:
    • Reused and recycled content
    • Zero or low off-gassing of harmful air emissions
    • Zero or low toxicity
    • Sustainably harvested materials
    • High recyclability, durability, longevity, and local production
  • Reuse and recycle construction and demolition materials.
  • Using recycled-content products provides demand for recycled materials, keeping waste out of landfills.

Occupant Health and Safety

  • Choose products with zero or low emissions to improve indoor air quality.
    • Many building, cleaning, and maintenance products emit toxic gases which can impact occupants’ health.
  • Improve air quality with adequate ventilation and a high-efficiency, in-duct filtration system.
  • Provide effective drainage from the roof and surrounding landscape.
  • Install adequate ventilation in bathrooms.
  • Allow proper drainage of air-conditioning coils.
  • Maintain buildings properly to reduce pollution and keep them efficient, including:
    • Testing and adjusting the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.
    • Instructing the staff on operating and maintaining equipment.
    • Requiring proper maintenance and upgrades.

Codes, Guidelines, Rating Systems, and Specifications

Rating Systems and Best Practices

  • CALGreen – California’s green building standards for:
    • Residential and non-residential
    • K-14 public schools
    • Healthcare facility construction
  • LEEDTM  Green building rating system for commercial buildings based on energy and environmental performance standards.
  • CHPS Criteria – Ensures all PK-12 students have access to environments that support learning and wellness.
  • Building and Buying Green In Indian Country – Information targeting construction in Indian Country.
  • Materials Emissions Testing Standard  California Department of Public Health’s standard method for evaluating volatile organic chemical emissions from indoor sources using environmental chambers.

Government Programs

Department of Commerce

Department of Defense


Department of Energy (DOE)