Beefed up building energy-efficiency standards win approval in California

June 13, 2012 |
Lynne Simnick

The California Energy Commission approved more-stringent energy efficiency standards for buildings. The measures will require hot-water pipes to be insulated and roofs to be able to accommodate photovoltaic panels. The regulations will cover construction of new residential and commercial buildings, as well as major retrofits.

The rules, which go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, would reduce wasted energy in heating, cooling, and lighting 25% over current standards for new homes, and about 30% for commercial structures, state officials estimated. The new measures set efficiency levels for whole house fans, upgraded windows, and improved wall insulation in residences.

Proposed changes for commercial buildings include solar-ready roofs, automatic controls that adjust lighting levels to sunlight, better refrigeration equipment, reflective roofing, and heat-filtering windows. The upgrades by law must be cost-efficient, and the Energy Commission estimated that the new standards would add $2,290 to the cost of a 2,200 sf home, but would yield $6,200 in energy-related savings over 30 years.

The new standards have the support of investor-owned utilities, environmental groups, local government building inspection officials, and high-tech businesses developing environmentally friendly building products. They also won grudging approval from the California Building Industry Assn., which represents 90% of home builders, and the California Business Properties Assn. Roofing manufacturers were opposed, arguing that the changes—particularly the installation of reflective roofs on commercial buildings—were based on insufficient financial data and would unnecessarily raise construction costs.



NOTE:This information is the opinion of the author/blogger and not the official position of IAPMO.

Lynne Simnick | Codes and Standards

Lynne Simnick is the Director of Code Development for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) and is responsible for the supervision and oversight of the creation and maintenance of all IAPMO codes and code supporting documents. Ms. Simnick has more than twenty-eight years experience in the plumbing industry including code development, education and training, plan review and evaluation services. Prior to joining IAPMO, Simnick worked as technical staff in engineering services, educator, inspector and plumber. She has a Bachelors of Science Degree in Education and Mechanical Engineering Technology. Simnick has authored many technical articles, participated in numerous standards committees with an expertise in code and standards development.

Ms. Simnick may be contacted at IAPMO, 909-472-4110 or email

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