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Net Zero: Building Code Is Coming
Don Mosier | Rimini Road

On May 9th, 2018 the California Energy Commission endorsed a new building code that will require all single-family home construction to achieve net zero energy consumption on an annual basis. The code goes into effect in January 2020. Net zero energy (NZE) means that a home generates as much electrical power as it uses each year. It is seen as a key strategy for meeting the state’s goals for greenhouse gas reduction.

A press release from the Natural Resources Defense Council summarizes the details: “Under the new code all new single-family homes and low-rise apartment buildings will be required to install solar panels, or tap into community solar power, to compensate for all electricity used by the building. (Homes that truly are not suitable for solar, e.g., shaded by trees or large buildings would be exempt.) A modestly-sized system will do, because builders must first meet energy efficiency standards, using highly efficient attics and walls, better windows and doors, and properly installed insulation, to ensure that new homes require little heating and cooling to keep them comfortable.”

One of the concerns about the new building code is that it will make homes more expensive. The economic analysis says otherwise. Residents should save an average of $1000 a year on energy bills, while paying $40 a month more on a 30-year mortgage, for a net savings of $520 a year. Energy use will be reduced by 53% compared to current building codes, saving 700,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution per year.

Del Mar has anticipated the change in energy efficiency required by building codes by adopting CalGreen Tier 1 standards for new commercial buildings, an intermediate standard between the current code and the new NZE code. Large scale commercial buildings will not have to meet the NZE requirement until 2030. The California Energy Commission recommendation goes to the California Building Standards Commission for a final decision in December 2018. Adoption is expected as part of the triannual update to state building codes.



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