An Improved Industry Rises to Meet Title 24’s New Standards

Title 24 Standards create challenges for builders while better preparing industry for even greener demands

By BRIANNA FRIES

Homebuilding has changed immensely throughout history. From adobe homes to clapboard houses to concrete abodes, the places we live in have always changed and adapted with the demands of their era. That trend is continuing today with a growing emphasis on creating homes that are energy-efficient, green, and even seek to incorporate health and wellness into their design.

One example of this is the influence that the California Title 24 Building Efficiency Standards have had on homebuilding in the Golden State over the past 30+ years. As a young resident of California, it never occurred to me that there was an era in which homes weren’t required to be as energy efficient as possible. And yet, according to my parents, there was! This also happened to overlap with a time when asbestos was still used in homes and people were allowed to smoke inside buildings and planes.

On the homebuilding side of things, the implementation of Title 24 building standards in 1977 changed a lot about how we approached building new homes. As most, if not all of us, know, Title 24 refers to a series of building efficiency standards designed to ensure new and existing buildings achieve energy efficiency and preserve outdoor and indoor environmental quality.

The requirements set forth by Title 24 present builders with the challenge of creating homes that produce lower energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately provide a more comfortable and healthy environment for residents. I, for one, am extremely glad I had the luxury of being born in an era where asbestos was never considered as an insulation material in my parent’s home, but solar energy was!

Title 24 standards have developed over the years to become more stringent and detailed, meaning builders have a lot to consider when they create a single-family home or multifamily building in California. It’s about more than just the gorgeous views and the soaring ceilings; it’s about how efficient and healthy you can make a home.

While industry professionals have had to endure the ever-changing hurdles presented by Title 24, the homebuilding industry has likely been made all the better for it. Not only have they found new ways to approach homebuilding to meet Title 24 requirements, but these new approaches have helped them discover how to make homes more affordable, more environmentally friendly, and even better able to adjust to the demands of the homebuyer market. Case in point: while homebuyers in the 1970s sought multi-level homes with rooms that included designated uses, today’s market has seen an exponential growth in demand for “green” homes from first-time buyers and Boomers alike. For a builder that is already trying to meet or surpass Title 24 standards, they are likely better able to create a development that meets these demands, meets code, and sells better because of it!

In addition to redefining market demands, the standards created by Title 24 have “upped the game” for homebuilding, and subsequently made room for even better improvements. We aren’t starting out where we were in the 1970s. Our new norm is the latest set of standards put forth by Title 24 updates, meaning that, when new standards are put in place, the hurdle doesn’t seem half as high as it would have a year ago. There are two prime examples of this:

  • California Solar Mandate: California’s new solar mandate stipulates that all new homes must be built to include solar power by the year 2020. If this requirement were implemented in 1990, the challenge to builders would have been far larger, whereas today most builders are already incorporating solar and other renewable energy options into many of their new homes.
  • A Net Zero San Francisco: San Francisco Mayor, London Breed, is planning to take an aggressive course to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that any new buildings made by 2030 will be entirely net zero. Breed’s ultimate goal is to make the city of San Francisco completely carbon neutral by the year 2050.

The Golden State has big dreams of living well and doing so in a way that is environmentally friendly. While these dreams are big, the strides we have taken in creating more environmentally friendly homes that meet and surpass the Title 24 standards have made this goal reachable.

So, while Title 24 can create its fair share of hurdles and challenges, it might be helpful to know that it is better preparing us for a world with demands that are higher than ever.

Brianna Fries is an Assistant Editor for Green Home Builder magazine. She can be reached at brianna@penpubinc.com