California Takes Action Toward Zero Net Energy Buildings

New regulations and mandates in the California building code, Title 24, will open a competitive door for A-E-C (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) teams. These new building codes are creating awareness in project delivery methods and innovative energy efficiency and technology strategies. Known as Zero Net Energy, these new building energy requirements are paving the path towards more energy efficient buildings. The revenue growth for the construction industry stands to gain a lot of ground with these new mandates for both new construction projects and renovation of existing buildings.

In a ZNE building, the annual energy consumption must be equal to the annual production of renewable energy. The ambitious goals for all residential buildings to be Zero Net Energy by 2020 and commercial buildings by 2030 is a monumental and significant change for California. Title 24, which went into effect July 1, 2014, will create a huge market for high performance buildings and a positive impact on GC’s who are able to step up to this challenge.

Features of a Zero Net Energy commercial building will include some or all of the following: PV panels, energy recovery ventilation, lighting controls and energy management systems, windows for natural ventilation, skylights for natural lighting, high efficiency LED lighting and energy efficient chillers and boilers.

The new building codes are requiring design teams, general contractors and suppliers involved in the A-E-C industry to implement these sustainable performance requirements. The cost impact of Title 24 could potentially increase costs up to 15% on the overall project budget. This might seem daunting for the developers, CFO’s and other decision makers, but the focus is delivering measurable whole building reductions and management of energy, which ultimately will save the owner costs. This will reduce the cost of high performance building in the long run and drive increased investments with new technology. The acceleration also allows further development of renewable energy generation.

With rising expectations and pressure put on the A-E-C industry, this is a time for building owners and construction industry representatives to rise to this challenge. California has always been a leader in the building environment and with the new Title 24 standards, this is one step closer to achieving sustainable, high performance buildings. Through new technology and smart design, a Zero Net Energy building bodes well as an emerging revenue growth for contractors in a still very competitive marketplace.

Greg Carnegie Energy Manager for Reno says, “At first just meeting the new Title 24 code will be a challenge with the new contractor certifications, cost implications and commissioning requirements still to be fully understood. Once the contracting community has these items well in hand and costs have stabilized, working with the utilities and progressive owners on how to affordably exceed the code will begin in earnest. If we are to truly meet pending 2020 / 2030 ZNE standards, aggressive code changes will need to be incrementally implemented over the next six years, contractors will need to adapt and get accustomed to this process of change.”