The codes currently in use in California date back to 2016, and came into effect on January 1st, 2017. At the time, changes to the California Energy Efficiency Standards, better known as Title 24, had a major impact on construction costs.
California was already pushing for net-zero energy new homes by 2020, and the State’s 2016 code updates affected several important changes to the Energy Efficiency Standards. Net-zero energy homes produce as much energy as they consume, and the purpose of the 2016 updates was to reduce the energy consumption to a level that on-site renewable energy generation systems could meet.
To achieve this, the 2016 updates included additional insulation in attics, better-insulated walls meant to reduce heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer, more stringent air leakage requirements for fenestration products, and high-efficiency luminaires with controls that would nearly halve electricity consumption, among others. The 2016 Standards also encouraged the use of instantaneous, or tankless water heaters as an added efficiency measure. Despite the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) efforts to reduce the effect of code updates on construction costs, the industry felt their impact statewide.
Aside from Title 24 changes, the State also introduced more stringent seismic and wind requirements. To keep up with an increasing pace of wildfires, the Wildland-Urban Interface Code called for tempered windows, fire-resistant exterior siding, fire-resistive roofing, limited foundation, eaves and soffit vents, and placed constraints on deck materials in the affected areas of the state. All these changes, necessary given California’s susceptibility to natural disasters, again made new construction more expensive.
2019 Code Editions - What To Expect
So, what changes are coming up in 2020?
As with the 2016 codes, some of the most significant changes due in January 2020 are related to energy efficiency. Below is a summary of the key updates.
Some exemptions from this new requirement will be given to buildings with insufficient roof space, or roofs which are permanently blocked from sunlight.
A community solar generation alternative will be available to builders of subdivisions. With this option, builders can provide off-site solar generation facilities that totally or partially meet the on-site PV requirements, instead of installing them on each individual roof.
2. New Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Standards
- kitchen range hoods must provide an output of 100 Cubic Feet per Minute and operate at 3.0 Sones
- HVAC systems may see an increase in duct size and return air sizing, while the size of equipment may decrease
- HVAC filter ratings will increase to Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 13
Kitchen range hood systems will have to handle a higher capacity, while operating quieter. Home air filters will get expensive, although the added protection against dust, dirt and allergens is bound to have a positive effect on families’ well-being.
3. R-Value Increases
- R-value for insulation below the roof deck in attics will increase from R-13 to R-19 in Climate Zones 4, 8-16
- R-value requirements for fill insulation in exterior walls will increase from R19 to R21, while requirements for continuous insulation will remain at R-5, in Climate Zones 1-5 and 8-16.
Windows are typically seen as the weak point of a home’s defense against heat gain and loss. They allow for significant solar heat gain during the hot summer months and conversely let the heat escape during the winter. To decrease a home’s usage of its heating and cooling systems, a home’s windows must limit the rate of heat loss (U-factor), and increase resistance to heat caused by sunlight (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, SHGC).
To this end, the 2019 Energy Efficiency Standards are adopting a more stringent prescriptive U-factor for windows, changing it from 0.32 to 0.30. The update is also limiting the SHGC from 0.25 to 0.23 in Climate Zones 2 and 5-15.
2019 California Building Standards Code Changes
Aside from the many updates to energy efficiency standards, the 2019 California Building Code also contains some notable changes. The new edition of the Building Code will include a clarification regarding Tsunami Risk Categories (TRC), and how they are determined. The TRC will dictate the design guidelines for buildings at risk of tsunami exposure. The new Building Code will also provide additional information regarding wind and seismic design requirements for rooftop photovoltaic panels.
How We Can Help
While this article touches on the more significant impending changes, there are plenty others that may affect your project. If you are planning to start a construction project once the 2019 codes come into effect in January 2020, it’s in your best interest to consult a professional. Regardless of what your project is, our team of experts at Design Everest will be happy to assist you with it, and to make sure that you’re fully compliant with all soon-to-be adopted codes. Call us at (877) 704-6765 for a FREE consultation and quote.
*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.
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