We’ve been talking a lot lately about smart buildings, particularly how retrofits and energy management systems can increase efficiency and buffer budgets. Another added bonus: energy savings can mitigate construction and remodel costs.
Recognizing the connection between fiscal health and reduced energy use, the California Energy Commission voted 4 to 0 last week to tighten a whole list of building regulations geared towards energy efficiency. Specifically, the Commission focused on lighting, windows, insulation, and hot water plumbing, creating a new set of rules designed to reduce energy waste.
The new regulations are scheduled to take effect January 1, 2014, and the hope is that savings will range between 25 and 30% over current standards for residential and commercial buildings. According to an article on the regulations in the Los Angeles Times, “over the next 30 years, the new standards will save energy equal to the output of six modern natural-gas fired power plants, saving enough electricity to 17 million homes or 40 million iPads.”
Under the new rules, new-home builders will be required to insulate hot water pipes, design roofs to be installation ready for future solar power systems, and engage the services of third-party inspectors to confirm all HVAC systems have been correctly installed. Sensor-based lighting controls would also be required. In addition to the requirements, the rules come with a set of recommendations: solar roofs for commercial buildings with light-colored roofing to deflect sunlight, whole house fan ventilation, insulated windows, and insulated walls. These new standards will be applicable to all new construction in California as well as “major” retrofits to existing structures. The Commission estimates that these upgrades will add about $2,290 to the cost of a 2,200 square-foot home, but should yield a total savings of around $6,200 in reduced energy bills over 30 years.
The stricter energy guidelines are seen by many as a big move by the state to control costs, avoid the construction of new (and costly) power plants, and mitigate the effects of climate change.
“The update for building standards is the biggest incremental improvement in efficiency we’ve ever made in California,” Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas is quoted as saying in the article.
So what do you think? Are California’s ambitious goals attainable? Will the $6,000 payback—over three decades—be enough of a save to homeowners who find themselves paying a little more up front for their new home or remodel? And how will these efficiency standards affect commercial and (eventually) industrial facilities, where the projects are bigger and the financial burden is higher?