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Building Energy Efficiency Standards

energy_efficient_building

California’s energy code is designed to reduce wasteful and unnecessary energy consumption in newly constructed and existing buildings. The California Energy Commission updates the Building Energy Efficiency Standards every three years by working with stakeholders in a public and transparent process.


Title 24

The California Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency Standards are designed to ensure new and existing buildings achieve energy efficiency and preserve outdoor and indoor environmental quality. These measures are listed in the California Code of Regulations. The California Energy Commission is responsible for adopting, implementing, and updating building energy efficiency. Local city and county enforcement agencies have the authority to verify compliance with applicable building codes, including energy efficiency.

Since 1978, Energy Efficiency Standards make buildings more comfortable, lower energy costs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Standards ensure that builders use the most energy-efficient technologies and construction.

Why do the standards need to be updated?

The Energy Commission is required by law to adopt standards every three years that are cost-effective for homeowners over the 30-year lifespan of a building. The standards are updated to consider and incorporate new energy-efficient technologies and construction methods. The standards save energy, increase electricity supply reliability, increase indoor comfort, avoid the need to construct new power plants, and help preserve the environment.

Who supports the standards? 

The California Building Industry Association supports the adopted standards as does the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups, investor-owned utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, and publically owned utilities such as the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

What buildings are covered by the standards?

All new construction of, and additions and alterations to, residential and non-residential buildings are covered with the exception of correctional centers, jails, and prisons.

Why do the standards vary by climate zone?

Measures that are cost-effective in more extreme climates may not be cost-effective in milder climates. By climate zone requiring measures ensure, that a building will have the most energy-efficient features for that area. There are 16 climate zones in the state.

Structural and Utility Systems

State law - Code of Regulations, Title 24, Building Standards Code - requires that every jurisdiction regulate building design and construction to assure that structural and utility systems are safe, healthy, accessible, efficient, sustainable, and preserve historical significance. The traditional way that jurisdictions accomplish this statutory mandate is with a Department of Building Safety (“Building Department”), which is charged with ensuring that new and existing buildings meet the legal requirements for human occupancy and habitation. Added to this obligation are federal and local regulations such as flood hazard, waste reduction, land use, infrastructure, etc. and other state codes for example fire, elevator, public utilities, land subdivision, and so on, and they must be individually satisfied and which have differing requirements.

Independent Inspection of Permitted Building Construction

The independent inspection of permitted building construction is not required by the Building Standards Commission, however, it is required by the Department of Housing and Community Development for residential construction. All jurisdictions, however, adopt and amend the California Building Code administrative regulations in Chapter 1 as part of the statewide 3-year code adoption process.  In addition, other state codes and local ordinances require independent inspections for life-safety systems, public infrastructure, land use conditions, etc. These inspection obligations may be accomplished by several entities:

  • Employee of the jurisdiction

  • Contracted vendor of the jurisdiction

  • Employee of a utility or other jurisdiction

  • Design professional of the property owner

  • Contracted vendor of the property owner

While the CBC stipulates requisites and prerequisites for inspectors and inspections, the actual “who inspects” and “what needs inspection” is distinctive for each jurisdiction. State law requires that jurisdictions legislatively adopt their alternatives and enhancements to the CBC (“local amendments”) and file them with the Building Standards Commission in Sacramento.

Preparing for Your Inspections

Whether you are a contractor, a homeowner, or an agent, as the permit holder you are expected to know how to comply and to comply with code requirements and manufacturer installation instructions. While inspection staff will discuss construction alternatives, state law prohibits employees from designing the project for you. For example, while staff will readily advise you if a proposed design complies with code, they cannot advise you how to design it to comply with code.

Inspection Scheduling

Check with your jurisdiction to determine its inspection scheduling requirements, including:

  • Permit expiration parameters

  • Whom you should contact for inspections

  • Multiple inspectors for the same inspection

  • Fees for (not) canceling inspections and re-inspections

  • Jurisdiction holidays, limited-service days, shut-down days, and overtime options

  • How far in advance inspections should be scheduled for example a day before, the morning of

  • Scheduling methods (facsimile/ internet/ telephone, weekdays 9:00 am to 3:00 pm)

inspections

Progress Inspection

Check with your jurisdiction for its progress inspection requirements, including:

  • The expected duration of an inspection

  • How to access to the work should be provided

  • Who should be present during the inspection

  • The expected arrival time of the inspector (e.g., confirm with the inspector on the morning of, any time during the day)

  • What should be provided for the inspection (e.g., job card, prior deficiency lists, approved plans and revisions, installation instructions, special inspection reports)

The Best Time to do a Title 24 Report

The best time to do a Title 24 Report is in the beginning stages of your project. So once you have the architectural plans completed, a Title 24 Report should be done to help determine how the building should be constructed. Not only does this help the architect but it also helps the structural engineer. Compliance documentation needs to be submitted to the Building Department prior to the issuance of building permits. Our reports come in a 24x36 format so that you can just print them and include them with your building plan check set. We include a watermark and signature to authenticate the validity of our report.


Most new Residential Construction projects will need the report in order to make sure that the design will meet the new standards. Commercial Tenant Improvements where lighting is being altered will most likely require the report for Compliance. Revising Commercial Outdoor Lighting will also trigger the requirement. Changes to the envelope or New Construction of Commercial Buildings will also trigger a report.