California Sustainable Development Goals for Architects & Builders

The Built Environment has a critical role to play in sustainable development and the achievement of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Though green building is becoming less of an option and more of a project requirement, there are still many opportunities for improvement within the sector.

In this article, which forms part of a series (read our article on UK Sustainable Development Goals for Architects and Builders), we’re focusing on several SDGs that are especially relevant to the built environment and examine current California progress, legislation and targets in relation to each. 

We’ve also highlighted ways in which StoneCycling can work with architects, contractors and developers with California-based projects in making strides towards achieving each SDG.

While our current production is based in the Netherlands, we are receiving more and more requests from the United States and are in the process of searching for a local production partner. For now, however, we believe that building global reference projects has a valuable role to play.

If you have any questions, please leave them at the bottom of this article. 

California Sustainable Development Goals for Architects & Builders || StoneCycling

Sustainability in Construction in California, USA

In California, residential and commercial buildings currently account for approximately 25% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions (second only to transportation) [source], and the sector is also responsible for generating between 21 and 25% of the state’s landfill waste [source]. 

Well known for its ambitious climate and energy goals, California is the first U.S. state to adopt and enforce a green building code.  While the California Energy Commission (CEC) estimates that homes built under the latest 2019 energy efficiency standards will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 700,000 metric tons over three years [source], there is still an incredible amount of work to be done. 

Further policies and incentives aimed at the decarbonization of existing buildings are needed, and barriers to access for low-income households must be addressed. With an economy-wide goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045 [source], it is evident that the built environment has a critical role to play in achieving this progressive target.

Sustainable Development Goals for Architects & Builders || StoneCycling
An illustrative map of the SDGs’ dependence on construction and real estate activities [source:]

Global Sustainable Development Goals

Formulated in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 interrelated goals that serve as a road map for creating a better and more sustainable future for all. 

The SDGs are categorised according to five broad themes (People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership) and are intended to be achieved by 2030.

While California has not formally committed to implementing the SDGs on a state-wide level, several California cities have adopted formal efforts to do so.  For instance, the city of Los Angeles reports on more than 150 SDG indicators using an Open SDG platform, and the Bay Area (San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward) is currently the highest scoring U.S. city when it comes to progress made towards goals [source].

California Sustainable Development Goals for Architects & Builders || StoneCycling


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While California leads the United States in terms of renewable energy generation, more progress is needed if the state is to meet its mandate to double energy efficiency in buildings by 2030 [source] and realise its goal to achieve 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045 [source]. At present, only 36% of California’s electricity comes from renewable sources [source]. 

Within the built environment, CALGreen refers to the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) mandatory Building Energy Efficiency Standards, though local jurisdictions may adhere to more stringent performative or prescriptive standards.

Mandatory measures focus mostly on factors such as insulation, air leakage, indoor air quality, HVAC efficiency, and lighting efficiency and efficacy.

The latest CEC standards were released in 2019 and require solar photovoltaic systems for new homes, encourage the use of demand responsive technologies such as battery storage and heat pump water heaters, update indoor and outdoor lighting standards, and enable the use of more efficient air filters [source].

2019 additions will increase initial building costs by $9,500, but save homeowners an estimated $19,000 over a 30-year mortgage period [source].


Improving energy efficiency is paramount to California’s aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045. 

Preliminary research done by an external agency found a 25% reduction in energy for our WasteBasedBricks® (compared to ordinary bricks) when production is fully scaled up. However, our mission is to produce products with a positive carbon impact, and we’re currently working towards carbon neutral production methods.

California Sustainable Development Goals for Architects & Builders || StoneCycling


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California’s Green Building Standards (CALGreen) Code applies to residential and non-residential new construction, as well as major additions and alterations. The code includes certain mandatory measures across five categories (planning and design; energy efficiency; water efficiency and conservation; material conservation and efficiency; and environmental quality). It also includes various voluntary measures (or tiers) that local counties and cities may adopt and enforce.

CALGreen shares numerous similarities with LEED, the preferred green building rating system in the United States.  In fact, LEED offers an alternative compliance path (ACP) for California building projects that streamlines the process by pre-approving 12 LEED prerequisites and six LEED credits [source]. Still, LEED certification requirements far surpass CALGreen measures and require additional action from developers.

Providing a framework for healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings, LEED can be applied to nearly all building types and phases. 

LEED Credits are allocated across nine categories as follows: Integrative Process; Location and Transportation; Sustainable Sites; Water Efficiency; Energy and Atmosphere; Materials and Resources; Indoor Environmental Quality; Innovation; and Regional Priority. A certain number of points are assigned to each credit and points are added together to produce an overall score.

Learn more about the benefits of LEED Certification for architects here.


Our sustainable building materials can aid developers in meeting institutional, legislative or investor requirements and help home owners ensure environmental responsibility and efficient utilisation of resources.

Currently, our production takes place within the Netherlands, though our vision is to find production partners in all of our major global markets and create building materials using purely local waste. For instance, we recently completed a large project in New York. As we are getting more and more requests from the US, our next step is to find a local production partner there.

Furthermore, developers who use LEED v4.1 for new construction or major renovations get a higher score if they use our WasteBasedBricks® towards the following credits:

The final point contribution of our WasteBasedBricks® to the project depends on the total design.

California Sustainable Development Goals for Architects & Builders || StoneCycling


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LEED certification has been required for California state buildings since 2004 [source]. Furthermore, California’s Building Standards Code (which is inclusive of CALGreen and the California Energy Code) specifies certain mandatory sustainability measures applicable to all construction, additions and renovations within the state. 

However, certain local jurisdictions within California apply more stringent supplemental green building ordinances by requiring LEED certification or standards that call for a percentage increase over CALGreen [source].

For example, nine local jurisdictions (i.e. cities or counties) within California have been certified under LEED for Cities and Communities. This program helps local leaders track progress towards sustainability objectives while improving standard of living and quality of life. Rating categories include: Natural Systems and Ecology; Transportation and Land Use; Water Efficiency; Materials and Resources; and Quality of Life.



Our WasteBasedBricks® help local leaders build circular cities that contribute to residents’ quality of life. StoneCycling’s sustainable building materials are particularly useful in meeting the requirements set forth in local supplemental green building ordinances that require LEED certification or a percentage increase over CALGreen.

Furthermore, local jurisdictions applying for certification through LEED for Cities and Communities receive a higher score if they use our WasteBasedBricks® towards the Responsible Sourcing for Infrastructure credit.

California Sustainable Development Goals for Architects & Builders || StoneCycling


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CALGreen requires building and construction projects to recycle and/or salvage for reuse a minimum of 65% of non-hazardous construction and demolition waste or meet a more stringent local construction and demolition waste management ordinance [source]. Each project requires submission of a construction waste management plan and use of a waste management company.

As an incentive for waste producers to migrate towards more sustainable alternatives, the state of California also levies an Integrated Waste Management Fee of $1.40 per ton of solid waste (as of 2021) and several Hazardous Substance Taxes.

Additionally, under LEED, Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction; Environmental Product Declarations; Sourcing of Raw Materials; Material Ingredients; and Construction and Demolition Waste Management are all credits for which points are awarded. Demonstration of waste diversion and prevention both qualify for points.



StoneCycling relies on the use of mineral waste streams (that are environmentally and legally safe to use) in the production of our WasteBasedBricks®, and all of our products are at least 60% waste.

Our products are also made to last more than 100 years and can be recycled and used as ingredients for new WasteBasedBricks® at the end of their life cycle.  As such, our WasteBasedBricks® add value to building life cycle assessments.

At StoneCycling, we now also have a preliminary EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) for our products. If you are interested in learning more or would like to request a copy of our EPD, please contact us.

California Sustainable Development Goals for Architects & Builders || StoneCycling


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California is the first US state to set a ‘net zero’ target aiming to achieve economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045 [source]. The state has also set a mandate to procure 60% of all electricity from renewable sources by 2030 [source] and double energy efficiency in existing buildings by 2030 (from a 2014 baseline). 

For new construction, the California Energy Commission (CEC) estimates that residential homes built under the 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards will use 53% less energy than those built under the 2016 standards, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 700,000 metric tons over three years [source]. Furthermore, the CEC estimates that non-residential buildings will use approximately 30% less energy (mostly due to required lighting upgrades) [source].

Future state-wide efforts are likely to focus on the implementation of additional energy efficiency measures and a move towards building electrification.


StoneCycling’s WasteBasedBricks® reduce embodied carbon by upcycling waste removed from construction landfill and relying on CO2 compensated production.

When possible, we also believe in producing locally, with local waste. However, for clients situated outside of the Netherlands, we currently offer the option of compensating your transportation footprint.

“The purpose of CALGreen is to improve public health, safety, and general welfare through enhanced design and construction of buildings using concepts which reduce negative impacts and promote those principles which have a positive environmental impact and encourage sustainable construction practices.” — California Department Of Housing And Community Development

Time To Take Action

It is our hope that the resources contained in this article will inform and inspire you to realise your own sustainable building projects in California.

Collaboration is crucial if we want to create lasting change within the built environment when it comes to sustainability, and the time to act is now.

Are you an architect, developer, contractor or interior designer based in California or currently working on realising projects in California? Share your thoughts and ideas with us or get in touch to explore ways in which we can work together. You can also visit our FAQ page for answers to all your questions.