On January 1, 2017, California’s latest building energy code updates will take effect. The newest updates to the building standards, known as the 2016 Standards, bring the state one step closer to its ultimate goal of net zero energy use for all new residential buildings by 2020, and all new commercial buildings by 2030.
Over the past couple of years, building code updates have left architects, builders and energy consultants with new challenges and ever-stricter guidelines as they design and build homes that meet California’s aggressive new energy standards.
Setting the Gold Standard: California Leads the Nation in Energy Efficiency
The architects in today’s design market are challenged to create spaces that complement clients’ needs, optimize energy saving solutions, and still meet rigorous energy requirements. These challenges define the need for superior management skills and another level of expertise for the entire design/build team.
But rest assured - - your efforts are paying off.
In 2016, California earned the #1 spot on the nationwide Energy Efficiency Scorecard garnering top marks and a perfect score for its building energy code stringency and compliance efforts from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
“California’s energy code is one of the most aggressive and best enforced energy codes in the country, and has been a powerful vehicle for advancing energy efficiency standards for building equipment.” - ACEEE, 2016 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard
Nice work California!
As California buildings become more and more energy efficient, building owners are not only saving valuable natural resources -- they are also saving money on future energy bills. However, this comes with a price that we are currently growing to understand in the building industry. The planning and implementation of an energy efficient building is an increased effort.
California Title 24 Building Standard
The California Building Standards Code is Title 24, Part 6 of the California Code of Regulations. Known simply as “Title 24,” the code sets the energy efficiency standards for residential and non-residential buildings.
Since first adopted in 1977, the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) Building Energy Efficiency Standards have been updated approximately every three years. In 2016, the CEC’s latest proposed updates were accepted into the California Building Standards with an implementation date of January 1st, 2017.
What’s New in 2017: The 2016 Energy Code Updates You Need to Know
With the 2016 Energy Standards taking effect for all projects permitted at the beginning of the new year, the design/build teams are fast approaching the deadline to plan action on the newest updates.
The 2016 Energy Standards focus on three key areas: updating residential requirements to move closer to California’s zero energy building goals; updating nonresidential and high-rise residential requirements; and improving the clarity and consistency of existing regulations.
2016 Residential Updates
The 2013 Standards have been in place since their implementation on July 1, 2014. The new 2016 Standards will continue to improve upon the 2013 standards for new construction, additions, and alterations to residential and nonresidential buildings.
Significant changes in the 2016 Standards affecting residential buildings include new mandatory measures impacting fenestration, and new requirements for high performance walls, high-performance attics, improved water heating system efficiency, and high efficient lighting.
Here are some notable changes that will impact residential buildings in 2016:
Windows, Doors and Skylights (Fenestration)
Increasing energy performance of a fenestration product is identified as U-factor. The insulating values of the fenestration U-factor contribute to the thermal comfort of a home. The mandatory requirements for window and door products, including skylights, are required to have a maximum or weighted average of 0.58 or lower. The new 2016 exception allows for 30 sqft of dual pane greenhouse windows.
The mandatory measure for air leakage of manufactured fenestration products must be certified to leak no more than 0.3 cubic feet per minute per ft² of the window area. The new 2016 standards include pet doors in this mandatory measure.
Increased wall insulation will improve comfort and reduce energy consumption by keeping the sun’s heat out of homes during hot summer months and warm air in during winter months. Prescriptively thicker framed walls must meet a maximum U-factor of 0.051 in Climate Zones 1-5 &8-16. In comparison, the maximum U-factor is 0.065 in Climate Zones 6 & 7.
Attics with additional insulation at the roof deck will keep attic temperatures closer to ambient, improving heating and cooling performance of the home. Extra insulation at the roof deck, in addition to the ceiling insulation, will reduce attic temperatures by 35 degrees or more during hot summer days. Furthermore, the mandatory requirements limit ducts and air handlers being located in the attic without efficient insulation.
New homes are encouraged to have a gas or propane instantaneous water heater. Tankless water heating technology and better distribution systems reduces the energy needed to provide hot water to the home by about 35%. A gas or propane storage type water heater can still be used, but the unit must meet The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) verified measures.
All permanently installed indoor and outdoor lighting in new homes must be efficient luminaires. New homes will require installation of high quality lighting with controls that nearly halve the energy required. Also, luminaires such as lamp types can now be considered high efficacy if certified by Joint Appendix 8 (JA8).
2016 Nonresidential Updates
Changes to the nonresidential requirements in the 2016 Building Energy Efficiency Standards largely follow the National Commercial Building Standards. The changes affect hotels, motels, and high-rise residential buildings, and include energy conservation measures related to door and window interlocks, direct digital HVAC controls, outdoor lighting, and escalators and elevators.
Here are a few highlights of the 2016 nonresidential standards updates:
Door and Window Interlocks
Sensors on doors and windows will adjust the thermostat to turn off heat or AC if a door or window is left open for more than five minutes. Occupants will now have to decide if they want windows open for natural ventilation or allow full heating/air conditioning to be activated with openings closed.
Direct Digital Controls
For larger HVAC systems, installing digital controls will enable communication with building energy management systems to tailor the building’s heating and cooling demands, and optimize efficient operation. Mandatory energy saving measures of DDC systems include demand control ventilation, automatic demand shed controls, and optimum start/stop controls.
Indoor lighting updates include the reduction of Lighting Power Densities, auto shut-off controls, and multi-level controls. Outdoor lighting updates include installation of more efficient luminaires which are widely available and commonly used for outdoor lighting applications.
Escalators and Elevators
Requires escalators and moving walkways to run at a lower, less energy-consuming speed when not in use. Efficient ventilation fans and lighting sources installed within elevators, along with controls that turn off the cab lighting and fans when the elevator is empty, will save energy both when in use and when empty.
While there are many revisions to the code, one area continues to deserve extra- attention when it comes to residential buildings in California: fenestration.
Fenestration Considerations Continue to Be Critical for Energy Compliance
When the CEC last updated the building codes in 2013, the most significant changes involved new requirements for residential windows, door and skylights. A thorough look at the 2013 Energy Code Requirements are discussed in Windows, Doors & Title 24.
“Fenestration accounts for a large impact on heating and cooling loads of residential and high-rise residential space conditioning loads, the size, orientation, and types of fenestration products can dramatically affect the overall energy performance of a house.”
- 2013 Residential Compliance Manual
What does this mean for 2017?
Despite the impact the 2013 standards had on fenestration requirements, the performance method of compliance still allows architects and builders opportunities for trade-offs between the building elements. An example is that previously more insulation could be added to offset varying fenestration performance. Now with the increasing envelope requirements, it’s harder to offset window and door performance and makeup for it elsewhere in the building envelope. This is a critical part of the planning process. Early identification of the desired fenestration products can become the primary driver for the energy package.
Design with Fenestration in Mind
The windows and doors are such a primary feature to the design, function and feel of today’s custom homes. The amount of glass needed to best enhance the living experience in a room is critical to the design. Starting from the fenestration outward with an understanding of the energy needs has become a necessary exercise. Choosing the fenestration manufacture early and working closely with the design team will yield the best results.
As California approaches its deadline for the zero energy building in 2020, architects and builders should continue to prepared for increased building envelope requirements, stricter compliance, and less room for trade-offs in overall building energy budgets.
More Resources for the 2013 & 2016 CA Building Code Updates
Want to know more about what’s new and what’s changed for the building energy code standards? You can learn more by visiting the following websites and resources:
Building Climate Zone map image courtesy of the California Energy Commission.