Sedina L. Banks

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Green Building Coming to a Home Near You

Yesterday, the California Energy Commission unanimously approved energy efficiency standards for new homes and commercial buildings. The new 2013 Building and Energy Efficiency Standards (Standards), which take effect on January 1, 2014, are projected to be 25 percent more efficient than previous standards for residential construction and 30 percent more efficient for nonresidential construction.

For new residential construction, the Standards include:

  • Solar-ready roofs to allow homeowners to add solar photovoltaic panels at a future date
  • More efficient windows to allow increased sunlight, while decreasing heat gain
  • Insulated hot water pipes, to save water and energy and reduce the time it takes to deliver hot water
  • Whole house fans to cool homes and attics with evening air reducing the need for air conditioning load
  • Air conditioner installation verification to insure efficient operation

For nonresidential construction, the Standards include:

  • High performance windows, sensors and controls that allow buildings to use “daylighting”
  • Efficient process equipment in supermarkets, computer data centers, commercial kitchens, laboratories, and parking garages
  • Advanced lighting controls to synchronize light levels with daylight and building occupancy, and provide demand response capability
  • Solar-ready roofs to allow businesses to add solar photovoltaic panels at a future date
  • Cool roof technologies

The Energy Commission concluded that the Standards will be cost effective. According to the California Energy Commission’s findings in support of adopting the Standards, the Standards will on average increase the cost of new home construction by $2,290 per home, but will return more than $6,200 in energy savings over 30 years. They calculate based on a 30-year mortgage a $27 consumer savings per month for heating, cooling and lighting bills.  However, the Energy Commission also found that the Standards may result in an incremental construction increase of $45,000 for a 15,000 square foot building (such as a multi-family residential building).

The Energy Commission also estimated that the Standards may create up to 3,500 new jobs in the building industry. No doubt some of these new jobs will be in the rooftop solar industry, which is poised to benefit from the Standards’ “solar-ready roof” requirement for both residential and commercial construction. Although home and building owners will not be required to install solar panels, the roofs will be ready for them should they decide to install solar panels.

The Standards were driven by the policy goals of “Zero Net energy” for new homes by 2020 and commercial buildings by 2030 and the Loading Order, which directs that growing demand must be first met with cost-effective energy efficiency and next with renewable energy. The Standards have a broad range of supporters from environmental groups, such as the Natural Resource Defense Council to the business industry, such as Pacific Gas & Electric Company.