To boost energy savings, the California Energy Commission (CEC) has begun the process of updating the state’s building energy code known as Title 24. The 2016 standards, which serve as minimum efficiency standards for new construction and major renovation, will include even more cost-effective efficiency measures that will save building owners and homeowners thousands of dollars, conserve millions of gallons of water, and avoid tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

The CEC plans to finalize the updated standards by May 2015 and they will take effect in January 2017. According to a recent Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) blog post, the updates will also help lay the groundwork for meeting California’s Zero Net Energy (ZNE) goals. ZNE is a state initiative that requires all newly constructed buildings and homes to produce as much energy as they consume — something they will achieve through a combination of energy efficiency measures and distributed renewable energy, such as efficient lighting and solar power. New residential construction in the state will need to meet ZNE mandates by 2020.

Title 24 sets the requirements in California for everything related to a building’s energy use, from lighting to insulation. The standard was first adopted in 1977 and has delivered tremendous benefits over the past several decades, including saving Californians more than billions in reduced electricity bills while cutting emissions of greenhouse gases, reducing the need for new power plants, and cutting peak electricity demands. The standards have helped Californian keep per capita electricity use flat over the past three decades while the rest of the country saw per capita electricity use increase by 50%.

The last update to the standards in 2013 were implemented in July 2014, and are expected to result in 30% less energy consumption for non-residential and 25% less for residential buildings over the previous 2008 Energy Standards.

As part of the new updates, the CEC is proposing to make Title 24 equivalent to ASHRAE 90.1-2013, a national model code adopted by states other than California, in places where it has fallen behind. This includes updates to the requirements for indoor and outdoor lighting, non-residential envelope efficiency, and HVAC and water heating equipment efficiency.

For residential, the Title 24 enhancements under consideration include:
--High-performance walls
--High-performance attics and ducts
--100% high efficacy lighting
--Credit for photovoltaic systems
--Tankless water heaters

In total, the changes could save an estimated 195.3 gigawatt-hours in the first year of implementation, reducing emissions equivalent to those produced by 28,000 cars.