The state government in California is tasked with updating the Building Standards Code in three-year intervals. The latest changes were introduced in 2022 and resulted in alterations to Title 24 with a focus on lowering energy consumption, limiting emissions, and enhancing energy efficiency.
Both the CBSC and CEC have introduced code updates that are centered around making California healthier, less wasteful, and more independent. These updates include everything from requiring new constructions to have battery storage to encouraging the use of electric heat pumps. The following is an in-depth guide on all you need to know about the building code in 2022.
A Brief History of the California Building Code
In 1978, the California state legislation implemented a single building code that ensured all building standards in the state were unified. This code is referred to as the California Building Standard Code or Title 24. By placing all building standards under a single code, it’s considerably easier for architects, designers, and builders to develop residential and commercial buildings that adhere to the right rules and regulations.
Before California building codes were standardized, they were listed under numerous title, which made it challenging for professionals in the construction industry to ensure development was up to code. Today, projects in all municipalities, towns, and cities are subject to the rules in Title 24.
What Exactly is Title 24?
The Title 24 building code includes all of the regulations on how buildings should be designed and eventually constructed. These standards are meant to make sure that buildings have structural integrity and are safe for the public to be in.
This code applies to residential homes, nonresidential buildings, and businesses. Certain renovations and remodels fall under the Title 24 building code as well. You’ll discover that the standards listed in Title 24 apply to the building’s structure as well as the ventilation, air conditioning, and heating systems.
The latest versions of Title 24 focus on making sure that emissions and climate change concerns are addressed, which involves implementing standards centered around energy conservation and gas emissions. Title 24 currently consists of 12 separate chapters, which include everything from the California Building Code to the California Administrative Code. Standards for historical buildings have also been placed in Title 24.
How Often Does the Building Code Change?
The most recent edition of the Title 24 guidelines was published in 2022. When a new edition is published, it’s opened up to public comment for a short period of time. The previous three editions of Title 24 are always available to the public online. Today, the 2016, 2019, and 2022 versions can be viewed via the CBSC website.
Before these changes were finalized, they were weighed by the CBSC until the end of 2021. The public comment period was available in early 2022, which provides California residents with the ability to make complaints or ask questions about the intended changes. Only after the public has weighed in will the commission make a final decision on what revisions will be introduced to the Title 24 code. These changes won’t be officially implemented until January 1, 2023.
Understand Upcoming Changes to Title 24 in 2022
In recent years, the California Energy Commission has aimed to make changes to Title 24 that focus on emerging technologies that are able to lower emissions for nonresidential and residential buildings. These updates are required based on the Warren-Alquist Act that was initially passed in 1974. Every change that’s proposed by the CEC is then sent to the CBSC for final approval.
When looking at the summary of the Building Energy Efficiency Standards that was published in 2022, homes and businesses are responsible for nearly 70% of all electricity use in the state as well as 25% of the greenhouse gas emissions that take place in California. The reason why recent changes haven’t made as much as of an impact as one might hope is because energy code updates are only able to be applied to new homes and commercial buildings as opposed to existing buildings.
Projected Benefits of the 2022 Energy Code
There are numerous benefits associated with the latest energy code changes, the primary of which include electric load flexibility, emission reductions, air pollution reductions, and an increase of on-site renewable energy. It’s expected that the 2022 Energy Code will provide upwards of $1.5 billion in total consumer benefits. Greenhouse gas emissions are also anticipated to drop by as much as 10 million metric tons over the next three decades.
What Did the CEC Propose 2021?
In 2021, the California Energy Commission proposed that several updates be made to the Title 24 code. The proposed updates are meant to foster widespread adoption of electric heat pumps and make sure that new businesses and homes are outfitted with electric-ready natural gas appliances. These updates are also designed to bolster solar storage and energy standards while also increasing ventilation standards.
Every new home is expected to be electric-ready, which means that electrical circuits will be available for each appliance. The battery storage and solar standards that were first implemented in the 2019 updates are becoming broader in scope to make sure that they apply to additional nonresidential and residential buildings.
Appliances in Some New Homes and Commercial Buildings Must be “Electric Ready”
This specific change requires most new homes and buildings in California to have one or more appliances that are powered with electricity as opposed to gas. This is also set to be the first building code in the country to position heat pumps as the base technology for the building code. The installation of heat pumps in any building should lower emissions and reduce energy consumption by a considerable amount.
Homeowners and Businesses in California
Even though heat pumps are set to become standardized throughout new nonresidential and residential buildings, these systems have yet to be required. This update doesn’t place a ban on natural gas, which is something that environmental groups were pushing for.
However, the updates provide builders with incentives if they go forward with having electric heat pumps installed. If builders don’t install a high-efficiency heat pump, they must implement stricter energy efficiency standards. California is also making sure that installing heat pumps is more affordable than installing gas furnaces.
Some New Homes and Commercial Buildings Built in 2023 Must Have Solar and Battery Storage
Changes to specific sections in Title 24 are designed to reduce emissions from businesses, homes, and many other buildings that must be cooled, powered, or heated. The goal of these changes is to substantially lower and eventually eliminate such fossil fuels as natural gas. These fuels will be replaced with electricity that’s generated by such renewable sources as wind turbines, hydroelectric dams, and solar panels.
Among the most impactful changes that has been made to the 2019 code is that fact that many new commercial buildings and homes are now required to be outfitted with solar batteries and panels. The code currently focuses on new builds until the law allows for updates to be made to existing businesses and homes.
How Much Will These Changes Cost?
If you’re trying to determine how much these changes will cost for homeowners and businesses, it’s important to differentiate between upfront costs and long-term expenses. Installing a battery and solar panels to a new build can increase the home’s cost by as much as $20,000. However, these added costs aren’t much when developing estates that are expected to cost at least two million dollars.
Even though issues might arise for families that only want to borrow several hundred thousand dollars when buying a home, the savings that are derived from having solar panels installed will add up over time. A homeowner’s monthly energy bill can decrease to almost nothing after installing solar panels and a battery that stores unused energy.
What Types of Buildings are Subject to These Changes?
The changes that have been made to Title 24 apply to the majority of new nonresidential and residential buildings. Some of the types of buildings that are impacted by these changes include:
- Grocery stores
- Office buildings
- Apartment buildings
- Any condos taller than three stories
Is the Cost Worth it?
Even though these changes may increase your construction costs at a time when inflation is already too high, you should see ample cost savings over the next several decades. If California doesn’t takes action to reduce the effects of climate change, it may continue to have significant problems with heat waves, wildfires, and floods. The destruction caused by these severe weather events adds up to many billions of dollars.
Even though the upfront costs for solar energy may seem expensive when developing a nonresidential or residential building, solar is much more affordable than it once was. Over time, the costs for these installations can be effectively recouped. At the moment, around 1.3 million residential homes in California are equipped with solar panel systems, which is upwards of 10% of single-family homes that exist in the state.
Over the past two decades, California has made sizable changes to the Title 24 building code every three years. Even though these changes aren’t always easy to abide by, they should pay dividends in the long-run and can help homeowners save money and protect the environment at the same time.
Jason Somers, President & Founder of Crest Real Estate
With over 15 years of professional experience in the Los Angeles luxury real estate market, Jason Somers has the background, judgement and track record to provide an unparalleled level of real estate services. His widespread knowledge helps clients identify and acquire income producing properties and value-ad development opportunities.