Get up to speed with California’s latest energy code updates (Title 24)
By Ben Rosenzweig, PE, Vice President and General Manager
Every three years, the California Energy Commission updates the state’s Energy Code (known simply as Title 24) to increase energy efficiency in new and existing buildings.
The most recent update—2022 Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Energy Code)—went into effect on January 1, 2023, bringing sweeping changes impacting project planning, design, engineering, construction, and lifecycle building system operations.
Anyone building new construction or major remodels in California must be aware. Here is everything you need to know about the latest updates.
Title 24 Explained
The 2022 Energy Code builds on previous versions of the Building Energy Efficiency Standards, first adopted in 1976. This updated code encourages energy-efficient approaches to building decarbonization, design, and construction by requiring more demanding specifications. With a focus on technological innovations, the regulation aims to enable California buildings to be responsive to climate change and continue the necessary steps to achieve 100% clean carbon neutrality by the mid-century.
These requirements apply to all newly constructed buildings, additions and alterations where building plan submission application dates are on or after January 1, 2023, with specific exceptions to certain requirements, where applicable.
The 2022 Energy Code is an extensive standard covering many aspects of buildings’ performance for energy, water and air quality requirements. As either a building developer, owner or tenant, it is critical that you hire the right engineer to ensure compliance with these new standards. The most significant changes can be categorized into five main areas.
Five Key Categories of Requirements
To ensure reduced energy usage for space conditioning, all vertical fenestration (windows and glazed doors) must be National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) tested and certified regardless of building square footage. Additionally, U-factor limits have become more stringent for all materials used in the building envelope, so indoor spaces are more insulated from outside temperatures.
Equipment efficiency drastically influences the energy consumption needed for space conditioning. The updated code increases the energy efficiency specifications defined by EER/IEER/SEER/IPLV values and now includes efficiency requirements for dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS) equipment. Due to their 100% electric operation and relatively high energy efficiency, heat pumps are now the required form of packaged HVAC equipment in almost all new buildings across most CA climate zones. Economizers are also now required for all systems providing more than 33,000 BTU cooling capacity.
Much of the changes to the lighting requirements aim to address the energy wasted when a space is unoccupied. Therefore, all controlled receptacles must be connected to a demand response system, and offices greater than 250 sq. ft. require occupancy sensors for their lighting. Daylighting controls are now mandatory in secondary daylit zones, and demand response systems will be required for lighting systems with greater than 4,000W of lighting power. A reduction in lighting allowances for parking lots has also been endorsed.
Renewable Energy (Solar Power and Battery Storage)
The 2022 update establishes the requirements for utilizing solar panel photovoltaics (PV) with battery energy storage systems (BESS) and other demand-flexible technology. The standard intends to significantly accelerate the deployment of these renewable energy technologies by mandating them in new construction. Most new buildings will require installing and operating solar PV and battery energy storage systems to gain a certificate of occupancy.
Electric Vehicle Charging
The 2022 CALGreen Code (Title 24, part 11) tackles the EV range barrier to increased EV adoption by future-proofing building development for EV charging. Where local authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) are enforcing the CALGreen code, several new mandates on EV charging capabilities have been introduced. The number of EV-capable spaces depends on the development’s total number of parking spaces. Beyond a threshold number of parking spaces, a portion of these spaces must have a branch circuit and raceway(s) to accommodate future EV charging. At the same time, a part of those spaces is also required to have the necessary supply equipment for active charging.
If you are involved in developing new construction in California, ensure that you meet the obligations in the updated standard by hiring knowledgeable engineers. Our team at CoolSys Energy Design has the expertise and knowledge to help you stay compliant and ensure no surprises when seeking plan approval. More information on the codes can be found on the California Energy Commission’s website.