Title 24 may have a short name, but it has a very tall impact. It’s the set of building energy efficiency standards which ensures that retrofits and new construction in California incorporate energy efficiency into their design, helping to reduce energy use while improving indoor and outdoor environmental quality. The California Energy Commission develops the standards through a stakeholder process, releasing updates every three years. Local city and county authorities are responsible for verifying compliance with the standards.
The energy efficiency standards in Title 24 (specifically, they’re in Title 24, Part 6) apply not only to new residential and commercial construction, but to alterations or additions that are made to existing buildings, including projects that impact the building envelope, as well as changes to the building’s heating, cooling, water heating and lighting systems. In a nutshell, the Title 24 standards require that buildings contain specific designs or material or achieve certain energy performance standards. It is necessary to understand Title 24 in order to build or renovate buildings in California.
The Title 24 standards currently in effect are contained in a 325-page manual, with another 445 pages in appendices – so it’ll be difficult for us to summarize it all right here. But we’ve come up with five key points about Title 24 that you should know, especially as they apply to the updates that became effective on January 1, 2020 (curiously called the 2019 standards).
- Solar on all new houses. All residential homes built after January 1, 2020 will be required to have solar photovoltaic systems to generate the electricity that the home is expected to use. The idea is for the rooftop solar to produce all the power the home needs, so there is no additional demand on the grid.
- New healthcare facilities are now covered. Previous editions of the energy efficiency standards covered all residential and non-residential buildings except healthcare and correctional facilities. However, the updated standards now cover newly constructed healthcare facilities like hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living centers, as well as correctional centers.
- Lighting density is reduced. Speaking of lighting, the 2019 standards sharply reduce lighting density (i.e., the watts per square foot) in indoor spaces. For example, non-ornamental lighting in restaurants will be cut from one watt per square foot to half a watt (perhaps leading to more romantic dinners). Open office areas will now have to make do with 0.6 watts per square foot, down from 0.75 in the current standards (no romance in the office, please).
- LEDs lead the way for businesses. The new standards update both indoor and outdoor lighting specifications for non-residential buildings, taking maximum advantage of LED technology. There are also requirements for occupancy sensors in certain areas to automatically turn lights on and off as people enter or leave a room.
- Improving indoor air quality. All HVAC systems will now be required to have filters with a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV, for short) of 13, up from the current standard of 8. Ventilation systems in restaurants and other commercial kitchens will be upgraded to improve the health of the building (and the health of the people who work in it), using high efficiency filters to trap hazardous particulates from cooking and outdoor air. The new standards also add airflow requirements that are specific to certain types of ventilation systems.
While these five points are important in understanding Title 24, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Fortunately, the energy efficiency experts at Ecology Action have the in-depth knowledge of Title 24 to advise business owners on when, where and how its standards apply to their retrofit projects. To learn more about how Ecology Action can help your business comply with Title 24 on your next retrofit, contact our energy efficiency experts.