The Green Building Program

The Green Building Program is concerned with protecting the environment and encouraging homeowners and builders to build using environmentally sound practices.  These programs are in line with the County’s Strategic Plan which has established goals of safeguarding our environment and quality of life and encouraging responsible development.


In 2005 there were more than 76 million residential buildings and nearly 5 million commercial buildings in the U.S.  By the end of 2010, another 38 million buildings are expected to be constructed.  The challenge will be to build them smart, so they use a minimum of nonrenewable energy, produce a minimum of pollution, and cost a minimum of energy dollars, while increasing the comfort, health, and safety of the people who live and work in them.

Sustainable building practices go beyond energy and water conservation to incorporate environmentally sensitive site planning, resource efficient building materials and superior indoor environmental quality.  Some of the key benefits are:

  • Lower electric and water utility costs.
  • Environmentally effective use of building materials.
  • Enhanced health and productivity.
  • Long-term economic returns.
  • Reduced environmental impact.

The County of San Diego has established incentive programs, policies, ordinances, and guidelines to promote green building design and construction.  More information is available in the Energy Efficiency, Green Building and Renewable Energy portion of our web site.


The County of San Diego has a Green Building Incentive Program designed to promote the use of resource efficient construction materials, water conservation and energy efficiency in new and remodeled residential and commercial buildings.  The program offers incentives of reduced plan check turnaround time and a 7.5% reduction in plan check and building permit fees for projects meeting program requirements.  To qualify for the incentives, the project must comply with one of the resource conservation measures listed below:

  • Natural Resource Conservation
    Straw Bale Construction.  New buildings using baled straw from harvested grain for the construction of the exterior walls will qualify for the incentives.
    Recycled Content.  A builder would be eligible for the incentive program by doing one of the following:
    Show that 20% or more of primary building materials being used contain, in aggregate, a minimum weighted average of 20% post-consumer recycled content materials (reused materials count as 100%).
    Show that at least one primary building material (such as roofing) is 50% or more post-consumer recycled content.
  • Water Conservation
    Gray water Systems. The installation of a gray water system in new or renovated buildings will qualify for the incentives.  Gray water is the wastewater produced from bathtubs, showers, and clothes washers.  In order to conserve water, it can be used for irrigation through subsurface distribution systems.  A permit is required from the Department of Environmental Health for the gray water system.  (CPC Title 24, Part 5, California Administrative Code, Appendix G.)
  • Energy Conservation
    Energy Use Below CEC Standards.  Residential projects that exceed the minimum Title 24 standards by 15% and commercial projects that exceed the standards by 25% qualify for the Green Building Incentive Program.  The applicant must demonstrate to the Building Division that the project exceeds the Title 24 minimum standards by submitting compliance documentation done on a computer program approved by the California Energy Commission.

Recycling Resources

Acknowledgement: This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Energy under Award Number DE-EE0000902.
Disclaimer: This report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.