San Jose, CA Green Building

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San Jose, CA, US

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Type: Policy

Status: Ongoing

Source File:


On March 6, 2007 the San José City Council took action that would once again demonstrate the City’s environmental leadership. That action resulted in the adoption of an updated Green Building Policy that states: The City of San José will require all new municipal buildings over 10,000 square feet to be constructed to achieve LEED™ Silver level certification at a minimum, with a goal of reaching LEED™ Gold or Platinum certification.

On June 19, 2001 the San José City Council accepted the staff report on the Green Building Guidelines Recommendations and adopted the Green Building Policies as developed by the members of the community with the input of City Departments. The following policies and guidelines were developed with the input of the Green Building Workgroup, City Departments, the Planning Commission and the Mayor's Green Building Task force.

In August of 1994, the San José City Council adopted San José 2020 as its general plan. Included within the plan was a Major Strategy entitled the "Sustainable City Major Strategy." The Sustainable City Major Strategy is a statement of San José's desire to become an environmentally and economically sustainable city. The Sustainable City Major Strategy defines a sustainable city as "a city designed, constructed, and operated to minimize waste, efficiently use its natural resources and to manage and conserve them for the use of present and future generations." To achieve this end, the City of San José envisions a Green Building Policy that fosters long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability in building and development while making green building the standard practice in San José and celebrating sustainability as a core value to the community. The vision for Green Building in San José is a place where the people have the knowledge and opportunities to build and occupy dwellings that have a maximum impact on the well being of the occupants and a minimal impact on the environment (adopted by the San José City Council on 4/4/00).

The purpose of a Citywide policy on green building is to demonstrate the City's commitment to environmental, economic, and social stewardship, to yield cost savings to city taxpayers through reduced operating costs, to provide healthy work environments for staff and visitors, and to contribute to the City's goals of protecting, conserving, and enhancing the region's environmental resources. Additionally, the City hopes to provide leadership by setting a community standard of sustainable/green building.

Green Building Policies

Policy #1: The City of San José shall adopt Green Building Policy goals and incorporate green building principles and practices into the planning, design, construction, management, renovation, operations, and demolition of all City facilities that are constructed, owned, managed or financed by the City.

Policy #2: The City of San José will require all new municipal buildings over 10,000 square feet to be constructed to achieve LEED™ Silver level certification at a minimum, with a goal of reaching LEED™ Gold or Platinum certification.

Policy #3: The City of San José shall provide leadership and guidance to encourage the application of green building practices in private sector planning, design, construction, management, renovation, operations, and demolition of buildings by promoting the voluntary application of the San José Green Building Policy goals.

Green Building Guidelines for Implementation

City Facilities

  • All new construction and major retrofit projects for all City facilities and buildings over 10,000 gross square feet of occupied space shall meet LEED™ Silver level certification at a minimum, with a goal of reaching LEED™ Gold or Platinum certification effective with the FY 07-08 Budget Allocations.
  • Staff shall review current 2006-2007 Capital Budgets to determine how Green Building recommendations could be incorporated into budgeted projects, and return to Council with a report on the potential costs and impacts by June 2007. The report shall include information related to Green Building Guideline compliance within each Project Award memorandum.

The City of San José Green Building Policy strategy of achieving LEED Silver shall not apply to current City facilities and major renovation projects that were budgeted in the FY01-02 Capital budget. However, these projects shall still implement City of San José Green Building policy goals and strategies to the maximum extent practicable. Documentation of ongoing efforts will be provided as part of the annual report.

Many projects do not meet the policy criteria, including buildings smaller than 10,000 gross square feet, unoccupied buildings, parks, roadways, and other infrastructure. City facility construction projects that are unoccupied or serve specialized functions (e.g. pump station, garage, storage building, etc.) are not subject to the City's green building guidelines and do not need to go through an exemption process.

Even though projects may become exempt from the City's required green building program, project managers and design teams are encouraged to apply the relevant portions of the LEED checklist and to develop goals that increase the environmental, social, and economic benefits of the project.

Private Sector Facilities

  • Staff shall work with the community to encourage achievement of LEED" Certified rating and identify and provide incentives and educational programs that help achieve those efforts.
  • ESD shall continue to work with the members of the Green Building Task force and Workgroup and other City Departments to implement the Green Building Policies and Guidelines, evaluate the program and report back to Council on a yearly basis.

Next Steps
ESD staff will continue to work with the Interdepartmental Steering Committee to prepare a detailed work plan and begin implementation of the guidelines, pending resource and staffing allocations. Education and training for the private sector will also continue based on existing and/or additional resources either from City allocations or from grants as identified. In addition, staff will continue to work with the Housing Department and residential stakeholders to encourage adoption of green building practices and principles for the residential sector, including affordable housing.

The most overlooked element of green building is operations and maintenance (O&M) practices. O&M practices impact both the building owner's bottom line costs and tenants' health, comfort, and safety. Green building O&M practices enhance both environmental quality and economic performance. Developing clear O&M procedures can help the City operate facilities more effectively and maintain the integrity of the building systems. The Environmental Services Department will continue to work with the General Services Department and other appropriate Departments to develop San José Green Building Operations and Maintenance Guidelines for all City operations and maintenance practices undertaken by the City or its contractors.

Green Building Policy Goals And Definitions
The green building policy goals will center on five main categories:

1. Sustainable Sites

  • Site Selection: develop only appropriate sites and reduce the environmental impact from the location of a building on a site.
  • Urban Redevelopment: channel development to urban areas with existing infrastructure, protecting green fields and preserving habitat and natural resources.
  • Brownfield Redevelopment: rehabilitate damaged sites where development is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination, reducing pressure on undeveloped land.
  • Alternative Transportation: reduce pollution and land development impacts from automobile use by taking advantage of public transportation and making the site convenient for bicycle users.
  • Reduced Site Disturbance: conserve existing natural areas and restore areas damaged during construction to provide habitat and promote bio diversity.
  • Stormwater Management: limit disruption of natural water flows by minimizing storm water runoff, increasing on-site infiltration and reducing contaminants.
  • Landscape and Exterior Design to Reduce Heat Islands: reduce heat islands (thermal gradient differences between developed and undeveloped areas) to minimize impact on micro climate and human and wildlife habitat.
  • Low Maintenance Landscaping: minimize the need for excessive maintenance by using landscaping designed to be "naturally manicured" - indigenous landscaping and wildflowers chosen to promote low maintenance and to reduce cutting as well as the long-term needs for water, fertilizers and fossil fuels.

2. Energy and Atmosphere

  • Minimum Energy Performance: establish the minimum level of energy efficiency for the base building and systems.
  • Optimize Energy Performance: achieve increasing levels of energy performance above the minimum standard to reduce environmental impacts associated with excessive energy use.
  • Building Commissioning: verify and ensure that the entire building is designed, constructed, and calibrated to operate as intended.
  • Measurement and Verification: provide for the ongoing accountability and optimization of building energy and water consumption performance over time.
  • Renewable Energy: Encourage and recognize increasing levels of self-supply through renewable technologies to reduce environmental impacts associated with fossil fuel energy use.
  • Green Power: encourage the development and use of grid-source, renewable energy technologies on a net zero pollution basis.
  • Reduce Ozone Depletion: support early compliance with the Montreal Protocol by eliminating the use of CFC-based refrigerants and reducing the use of HCFCs and halons.

3. Water Efficiency

  • Water Use Reduction: maximize water efficiency within buildings to reduce the burden on municipal water supply and wastewater systems.
  • Innovative Wastewater Technologies: reduce generation of wastewater and potable water demand, while increasing local aquifer recharge.
  • Water Efficient Landscaping: limit or eliminate the use of potable water for landscape irrigation.

4. Materials and Resources

  • Storage and Collection of Recyclables: facilitate the reduction of waste generated by building occupants that is hauled to and disposed of in landfills.
  • Building Reuse: extend the life cycle of existing building stock, conserve resources, retain cultural resources, reduce waste, and reduce environmental impacts of new buildings as they relate to materials manufacture and transport.
  • Construction Waste Management: divert construction, demolition, and land clearing debris from landfill disposal and redirect recyclable material back to the manufacturing process.
  • Resource Reuse: extend the life cycle of targeted building materials, reducing environmental impacts related to materials manufacturing and transport.
  • Recycled Content: increase demand for building products that have incorporated recycled content material, reducing the impacts resulting from extraction of new material.
  • Local/Regional Materials: increase demand for building products that are manufactured locally, reducing the environmental impacts resulting from transportation, and supporting the local economy.
  • Rapidly Renewable Materials: reduce the use and depletion of finite raw and long cycle renewable materials by replacing them with rapidly renewable materials.
  • Certified Wood: encourage environmentally responsible forest management.

5. Indoor Environmental Quality

  • Minimum Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Performance: establish minimum IAQ performance to prevent the development of indoor air quality problems in buildings, maintaining the health and well being of the occupants.
  • Increase Ventilation Effectiveness: provide for the effective delivery and mixing of fresh air to building occupants to support their health, safety, and comfort.
  • Construction IAQ Management: prevent indoor air quality problems resulting from the construction/renovation process, to sustain long term installer and occupant health and comfort.
  • Low-Emitting Materials: reduce the quantity of indoor air contaminants that are odorous or potentially irritating to provide installer and occupant health and comfort.
  • Indoor Chemical and Pollutant Source Control: avoid exposure of building occupants to potentially hazardous chemicals that adversely impact air quality.
  • Controllability of Systems: provide a high level of individual occupant control of thermal, ventilation, and lighting systems to support optimum health, productivity, and comfort conditions.
  • Thermal Comfort: provide for a thermally comfortable environment that supports the productive and healthy performance of the building occupants.
  • Daylight and Views: provide a connection between indoor spaces and the outdoor environment through the introduction of sunlight and views into the occupied areas of the building.


Green building
An integrated framework of design, construction, operations and demolition practices that encompasses the environmental, economic, and social impacts of buildings. Green building practices recognize the interdependence of the natural and built environments and seek to minimize the use of energy, water, and other natural resources and provide a healthy, productive indoor environment.

Integrated design
A holistic process that considers the many disparate parts of a building project, and examines the interaction between design, construction, operations and demolition to optimize the energy and environmental performance of the project.

Whole-systems thinking
A process through which the interconnections of systems are actively considered, and solutions are sought to address multiple problems at the same time.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system is a third party certification system designed for rating new and existing commercial, institutional, and high-rise residential buildings developed by the US Green Building Council.

LEED Certification
Different levels of green building certification - certified, silver, gold, and platinum - are awarded based on the total credits earned in each of several categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

The consecutive, inter-linked stages of a product - beginning with raw materials acquisition and manufacture, the product's fabrication, construction, use, and ultimate waste management (recovery, recycle or disposal).

Life-cycle analysis
An evaluation tool that assesses the net present value of the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and disassembly of a facility as well as the health and productivity of its occupants, the costs of measurable external environmental impacts, and the cost of measurable and relevant social impacts.

Operations and maintenance
Costs directly related to the operation, maintenance, repair, and management of a property and the utilities that service it. These include insurance, property taxes, utilities, maintenance, and management expenses.

Sustainable development
"Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" - The World Commission on Environment and Development, The Brundtland Commission, 1987. Sustainable development seeks to balance human development, growth, and equity with ecological stewardship.