Before last week, California was leading the nation in terms of energy-efficient building codes. Now, it’s really leading the nation.
On Thursday, May 31, the California Energy Commission voted 4-0 to adopt a range of energy standard upgrades for both residential and commercial buildings. The codes, which will take effect January 1, 2014, cover new construction in the state, as well as any major alterations and additions performed on buildings. By integrating efficiency requirements into the design and basic operation of buildings, owners can reduce their energy costs from the very beginning, and lower the barriers to energy-focused future upgrades.
“Little more than half the nation has energy building codes,” Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council and director of the Center for Energy Efficiency, tells Smart Planet. “Some states just have residential energy codes, some just have commercial [code]. Some have both. But with these new standards, California continues its leadership.”
Many states base their codes off a set of models developed by the International Energy Conservation Code and these have been updated in 2006, 2009, and 2012. “Of the states that have energy codes, most have [ones based on] 2006 or 2009 codes. Some are just starting to implement 2012 codes,” says Horowitz. “The 2012 code is 30 percent better than the 2006 code, but the California Energy Commission believes that the new California code is about 10 percent more efficient than the 2012 codes.”
The highlights of the new CA residential codes are:
- Solar-ready roofs on residential buildings. Builders will need to build in space for photovoltaic solar or solar thermal energy panels.
- Hot water pipe insulation. Piping that carries hot water will need insulation, which keeps the water at a higher temperature all the time. As a result, residents won’t need to wait as long for water to turn warm as they would without the insulation. Pretty much a no-brainer.
- Verify air conditioner installation. An independent contractor will be required to check A/C installs to ensure they’re done properly and are optimized for efficiency.
The highlights of the new commercial codes are:
- Ditto on the solar-ready roofs.
- Intelligent lighting controls. Sensor-based lighting controls for lighting fixtures located near windows will automatically adjust their output based on available daylight.
- Efficient process equipment. In other words, refrigeration units, ovens, computer data centers…anything that tends to suck energy will need to be efficient.
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