The California Energy Commission (CEC) updates the Building Energy Efficiency Standards every three years, and 2016 is such a year, with all changes going into effect January 1, 2017. These standards are designed to achieve energy efficiency and improve indoor and outdoor air quality. The Building Energy Efficiency Standards cover new construction and construction on existing commercial and residential buildings in the state except for hospitals, nursing homes, and correctional facilities.

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These code updates are required by law and driven by new green building technologies and materials that continue to raise the bar for energy efficiency. The CEC updates and implements the building codes, which are then enforced by local city and county agencies. These standards must be cost-effective for homeowners in the long-term, and not just provide short-term energy savings. California is a huge, geographically diverse state, and the CEC recognizes that what is cost-effective in San Diego may not be in the Central Valley. The CEC divides California into sixteen climate zones, and the standards vary from zone to zone.

The updated standards will make it roughly $2,700 more expensive to build a new home, but these upfront costs are projected to generate an average of $7,400 in energy and maintenance costs over a thirty-year period. Compared to those built to the 2013 standards, single-family homes built to the 2016 standards will use 28% less energy.

The updated standards will not get California to it’s ultimate zero net energy goals, but it will bring the state significantly closer. In 2007, the CEC and Public Utilities Commission (PUC) publicly committed to the goal that all new residential construction will be zero net energy by 2020, and all new commercial construction will be zero net energy by 2030. The 2019 building standards, then, should be the final step in achieving zero net energy for residential construction in California.

The CEC’s Building Standards date back to 1977, and since then, have saved Californians over $74 billion in energy costs and are at least partially responsible for the state’s per capita electricity use staying flat over the last forty years, in stark contrast to much of the rest of the country.