CURRENTS: Preparing for the 2016 Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Title 24 Part 6) – New Resources, and Ways to Leverage the Standards for Local Goals

The adoption of the 2016 Building Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential and Nonresidential Buildings by the California Energy Commission created some exciting and unprecedented new opportunities for energy savings. As an example: single-family homes built following the 2016 standards will use 28% less energy compared to those built to the 2013 standards.

Per California Energy Commission (CEC) Commissioner McAllister (as shared in the CEC press release), “With the adoption of the 2016 Building Energy Efficiency Standards, we are one step closer to the state’s 2020 zero net energy goal, where a building produces as much energy as it consumes. With features such as high performance attics and walls, instantaneous water heaters, and highly efficient lighting, new homes will consume energy at a level that could be met by on-site solar or other renewable generation.”

While they have great energy-saving potential, the new standards also – as is the norm when new energy standards come out – created the need for new documents to help local governments, their buildings departments, and their developers, realtors, and contractors, understand the new standards and leverage them for their own energy efficiency, health, cost-reduction, climate, and/or sustainability goals. Review and adoption of new codes takes time, and requires bringing multiple stakeholders to the table. Local governments may want to use this opportunity to consider “reach codes” – or, adopting a code that goes beyond the state energy code to achieve greater savings.

Reach codes have historically been adopted by local governments as “a percent above” the energy code. For example, a local government could put in place a Tier 1 reach code that took state energy code requirements 15% further. (Some more background on this is available on the CEC’s website.) While that is still an option, many local governments are now considering measure-focused reach codes, focused specifically on implementing on a single, or a few, different measures. If your climate plan, local energy goals, or local energy champions are focused on deployment of specific activities – such as high-efficiency lighting, solar, or cool roofs – this may be a great opportunity for your government.

To support local governments in this code adoption period, the California Energy Commission and the Investor-Owned-Utilities (IOUs)’ Codes and Standards teams of the state are working together on development of some key new resources to support local governments that want to take code adoption further for the achievement of state and/or local energy goals. One of them, a cost-effectiveness analysis of requiring cool roofs through local code (completed for all climate zones), provides local governments with a tool to review the impacts of a cool roofs requirement in their jurisdiction – and, if a cool roofs reach code is found desirable, to submit to the CEC for approval. As Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability founder Jonathan Parfrey summed up nicely in a recent blog post, “Cool roofs reduce a home’s temperature anywhere from 3-23°F, making living rooms more comfortable and utility bills lower at the same time. Cool roofs also reduce the conditions that form smog. Cool roofs are just one of hundreds of strategies that accomplish multiple goals simultaneously.”

Other new resources to be available include tools for tracking and quantifying the value of implemented reach codes, other single measures, and support for ZNE policies – stay tuned! And don’t miss out on great existing resources, including Title 24 code trainings offered through the CEC and Energy Code Ace, or the CEC’s energy code hotline. Regardless, now is a great time to start planning for the new code and exploring local support for measures that will take you even further on your community’s energy and sustainability goals.