The Building Code for California is administered by the California Standards Commission. Each year, California makes revisions to its Building Code using Supplements and Errata (corrections to the code). Every three years, California releases major revisions to the California Building Code (CBC). The 2013 CBC goes into effect January 1, 2014 and represents a major revision.
The triennial updates for the CBC generally go into effect the year subsequent to the code year. In other words, the 2013 CBC will go into effect January 1, 2014.
The 2010 California Green Building Standards Code referred to as CALGreen, and part of the CBC, went into effect on January 1, 2011. CALGreen’s mandatory measures include requiring new buildings to reduce water consumption, employ building commissioning to increase building system efficiencies, divert construction waste from landfills, and install low pollutant emitting finish materials.
Beginning January 1, 2014, significant CALGreen effort begins to make all new construction in California be Net-Zero Energy Building’s (NZEB) by 2020. A NZEB is a building with zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions annually.
Most zero energy buildings use the electrical grid for energy storage but some are independent of the grid. Energy is usually harvested on-site through a combination of energy producing technologies like solar and wind, while reducing the overall use of energy with highly efficient HVAC and lighting technologies. The zero-energy goal is becoming more practical as the costs of alternative energy technologies decrease and the costs of traditional fossil fuels increase.
For California, solar, LED lighting, and highly efficient Heating, Ventilation, and Cooling (HVAC) systems will be paramount in meeting CALGreen’s objectives and requirements. Expect to see these and additional requirements when building new homes and renovating/remodeling existing homes.
Key measures of CALGreen include cool roofs (reduce attic temperatures – lowering cooling bills and using less electricity), performance and prescriptive energy measures (reduce electricity use throughout the home), and increased reduction in landscape potable water irrigation (use less water for landscaping).
- Cool Roofs: This includes using roofing materials that reflect the suns heat and insulating materials to reduce the transfer of heat into the home. This also includes heating and cooling duct work that keeps the air inside the duct cooler; which uses less energy.
- Performance Energy Measures: This includes using high efficacy lighting such as Light Emitting Diode (LED) recessed lighting, Compact Florescent Lighting (CFL), exhaust fans using a humidistat sensor, and tankless water heaters. This also includes insulating water pipes, higher “R” value thermal insulation and where used, efficient attic ventilation, water saving toilets and facets, and more efficient furnace and air conditioning systems. Recently, residential solar systems are becoming key components in reducing energy consumption. This also includes home charging stations for clean air electric vehicles and low-emitting resilient flooring.
- Landscape Irrigation: These include pavers for drives, walks, and patios, drought tolerant plants and trees, artificial lawns (fake grass), drip irrigation, mulch, decorative stones and pebbles.
One example of what is possible to significantly reduce residential energy consumption and save a large amount of money is LED recessed lighting. According to Halo®, a leading high quality manufacturer of LED recessed lighting:
LED recessed lighting at 600 Lumens is equivalent to a 65 Watt light bulb using only 13.8 Watts. These LED’s are designed and manufactured to last almost 23 years or 50,000 hours; saving over $10,900 (or almost $1,100 per year, per light) in operating and energy costs (based on 6 hours average use per day). Considering 6 LED recessed lights in a typical kitchen, that’s a savings of $6,600 per year compared to the 65 Watt incandescent light. These LED recessed lights have an operating and energy savings payback of only 4.7 – 4.8 months! This means the cost to install is essentially free in less than 5 months.
LED lighting uses very little electricity. Consider the following: On a typical dedicated 15amp circuit breaker, up to 24 standard 65 watt recessed lights can be installed. With LED lighting, up to 128 recessed lights can be installed on a typical dedicated 15amp circuit breaker. That’s 104 or 433% more recessed lights on a single dedicated 15amp circuit breaker. The savings are real and very large. I don’t know of anything else offering these huge savings so quickly.
Changes are coming beginning January 1, 2014. However, as you can see, these changes will save money – lots of it. The cost to install these new energy saving measures cost a bit more. The savings to both your wallet and the planet significantly offset any short term additional costs.