Calif. Energy Commission OK’s New Building Standards to Cut State Energy Use

Calif. Energy Commission OK’s New Building Standards to Cut State Energy Use

By a 3 - 0 vote -- and with a round of applause from the audience -- the California Energy Commission has adopted new standards for energy efficiency in residential and nonresidential building construction. The new rules will cut the state's peak energy use by more than 180 megawatts annually -- enough electricity to power 180,000 average-sized California homes. Those energy savings are compounded from year to year, reaching over 500 megawatts after three years.

"California is already the most energy efficient state in the nation, in large part because of the building standards that have been in effect since 1978," said energy commissioner Robert Pernell, presiding member of the Efficiency Committee. "The cheapest kilowatt is the one you don't have to generate and to transmit through the state's power grid. With the adoption of these new rules, we will continue to reduce California's energy demand, cut our future energy bills and make our buildings more comfortable."

The changes have the support of utilities, window manufacturers and other industry representatives, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, among others. Mike Hodgson, speaking on behalf of the California Building Industry Association, referred to the new standards as "the most thorough, thoughtful revision ever."

The Energy Commission will work closely with building officials, builders and utilities to provide training on the new standards, educating everyone to the changes before they go into effect in October 2005.

The latest standards look at energy saving measures tailored to help reduce not only energy use, but peak energy use -- electricity demand on hot summer days when air conditioning loads can cause the state's need for power to nearly double. Here are some of the major changes in the new Title 24 building standards:
  • Non-residential buildings will be required to install cool roofs -- highly reflective, insulated roofing. Today nine out of ten rooftops in California reach summer peak temperatures of 150 degrees to 190 degrees. A cool roof can reduce those temperatures by as much as 50 degrees. That large temperature difference translates to a 20% reduction in air conditioning costs.

  • The updated standards require skylights in "big box" nonresidential buildings with controls to turn-off electric lighting when natural daylight is available. Also, several changes make space heating, cooling, and ventilation systems more efficient in both residential and nonresidential buildings.

  • Senate Bill 5X required the Energy Commission to include standards for outside lighting for the first time in the standards. Indoor and outdoor signage is also covered for the first time.

  • More efficient lighting in new residential and nonresidential construction is a major improvement in the standards. Taking new technology into account, the standards call for state-of-the-art fluorescent lighting in all permanent fixtures.

  • Improvements and alternations to existing residential buildings call for new replacement windows with improved glazings. Whenever new heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment is installed, the standards will require ductwork to be inspected and sealed to correct the inevitable large leaks in existing ducts.

  • Portable classrooms are specifically singled out for new standards to make them more energy efficient and comfortable.