California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Sustainable (Green) Building

Residential Green Building

Photo of homes with solar panels on roofs.

Sustainable design or building "green" is an opportunity not only to use our resources more efficiently while creating healthier commercial or industrial buildings, it also applies to residential construction and  renovation.

Residential green building practices include designing and constructing homes that use energy, water, and materials efficiently; have a reduced impact on their physical environment; and promote a healthy indoor environment for you, your family, or your customer. By using an integrated design approach, the whole residential building can be designed and operated as a system.

CalRecycle's residential green building program is working to assist you in greening the residential sector. For more information, visit the pages in this site or contact the staff listed at the bottom of this page.

Why Build Green?

Benefits Of Green Building

Green building has multiple direct environmental and economic benefits to consumers and to society as a whole. Some of these benefits include:

  • Increasing demand for recycled content building products creates markets for the feedstock collected in municipal recycling programs.
  • Reducing and recycling construction wastes directly benefit local jurisdictions working to meet the diversion requirements of AB939.
  • Recycling construction waste is often less expensive than disposal.
  • Making homes more energy efficient, California residents can realize actual monthly utility savings.
  • Including onsite electricity generation, via photo-voltaic cells or other methods, reduces the state's dependence on out-of-state power generation, provides electricity back to the grid during the day, saves consumers money, and reduces air-pollution.
  • Using low-flow water fixtures and reducing the amount of landscape can reduce water demand, and, in areas with meters, will save consumers by lower monthly bills.
  • Cities that embrace green building can reduce the impacts on their infrastructure including roads, water treatment, and storm water run-off.
  • Reducing water consumption also saves electricity used to pump water to consumers.
  • Increasing the use of infill land and/or encouraging redevelopment in underutilized sites reduces the consumption or farmland and eases transportation burdens since these sites are generally located in developed areas near jobs and services.

Housing's Environmental Impacts

Population growth and housing development have many impacts on the environment and on quality of life issues. The sheer number of existing housing units as well as the potential impact of future growth in the state directly speaks to the need of an integrated green building approach to housing. Among some of the direct factors that impact California include:

  • In 2002, California had approximately 12.4 million existing housing units, nearly 70 percent having been built more than a quarter century ago.
  • In order to meet expected population growth, approximately 220,000 housing units will need to be added annually until 2020.
  • The construction of a 2,000 ft2 house generates approximately 3.5 tons of waste.
  • The residential sector accounts for roughly 31 percent of the electricity consumed in the state.
  • Transportation issues in California will become more acute as we continue to build houses on cheaper land further from the economic centers of the state.
  • California residences use 5.6 million acre-feet of applied water annually.
  • American's spend an average on 90 percent of their time indoors, and many common building products used in housing construction emit formaldehyde or other chemicals known by the state to have health impacts.

Currently, houses in California must be built to the most stringent energy code in the country, but this will not be enough to reduce the impacts housing has on the state's environment. In order to be truly effective, an integrated approach to building must be pursued.

Last updated: August 29, 2014
Green Building http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/GreenBuilding/
Greg Dick: Gregory.Dick@calrecycle.ca.gov  (916) 341-6489