What You Need To Know about the New Energy Code in California

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2017 has arrived and brought with it a whole slew of new things to get used to. There’s the new administration – yup, there’s that – and there’s the new energy code in California.

As of Jan. 1, 2017, California has increased the stringency of the residential energy code that will affect anyone planning a custom home or remodel. The extra measures will cost homeowners money, but at BOA, we ultimately think it’s a good thing because it’ll make homes much more comfortable, help everyone save on PG&E bills and put off global warming to boot.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2016 California Building Code, Title 24, Part 6:

If you, or your client, is building a new home, plan to increase expected costs to meet these criteria:

  • All lighting must be LED
  • All walls and attics must must have high performance insulation
  • Water heaters and furnaces must be high efficiency
  • New windows must have insulated glass. If you’re using metal windows, they have to have especially designed thermal breaks. We’re going to shamelessly plug Marvin Windows and Doors and Blomberg Window Systems here because they meet these codes and look beautiful.

For those planning a remodel, in general you will only need to meet these codes within the area  of the home where you are doing the work. At BOA, we’ve been designing homes to meet these codes for years, and it’s really not really that difficult. For example:

  • A high performance attic just means two layers of insulation – one under roof (plywood) and one at the ceiling.
  • A high performance wall has insulation in the studs plus rigid insulation board over the entire exterior surface of the wall.
  • You don’t have to replace old light fixtures anymore! The new code allows you to screw in LED bulbs to the old fixtures, so if you are remodeling a room, you may not need to buy a new sconce or pendant.
  • If you can avoid adding skylights, the other energy upgrades required as part of your project will probably be less.

All these changes are propelling us towards the Zero Net Action Plan for 2020 anyway. No matter what happens with the nation during the next four years, by 2020 all new homes in California will generate as much energy on site as they use. Thank you, California, for being a pioneer in energy efficiency!

If you have any questions or concerns about the new energy code, please give us a call at (510) 595-1844 or email us here.

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Buchanan Opalach Architects, BOA, is an Oakland-based, award-winning architecture firm