California Energy Commission Expert Panel

Title 24 updates are here; this is what builders should know

By CHRISTOPHER OLVERA, MAZI SHIRAKH

What do you think is the greatest challenge for builders during this transition to the new Title 24 codes?

Christopher Olvera: None of the changes for the 2019 energy code are conceptually new. Some builders currently build in compliance with the high-performance attic and walls, some are doing PV as a compliance credit, some are installing PV as a selling point… So if they’re utilizing and modeling the PV as a compliance credit now to offset and trade-off compliance with the high-performance walls and attic, that will no longer be an option moving forward. The PV is going to be a requirement, and the tradeoff for the attic and walls is going away, so that could be one difficulty for builders who are currently modeling the PV as a compliance credit for those features.

Some builders may have to adopt a “new standard practice of construction” to meet those requirements. What’s most important is to ensure their building designs, plans, and insulations are modified accordingly to be compliant with the new energy code requirements.

Mazi Shirakh: The biggest change, of course, in this code cycle, was the inclusion of onsite photovoltaic systems as a prescriptive requirement.

[Builders] have several choices. One is having a rooftop PV system, or onsite. That comes in different flavors — you can have an outright purchase, you can have a lease agreement or power purchase agreement (PPA), and the other one would be to take advantage of the community solar option if that’s available in that area. So [builders] are all working to see which one is the best match for their business model.

Christopher Olvera: One more thing to add. For QII, many builders are modeling that as a compliance credit now; moving forward for 2019, it’s going to become a prescriptive measure. It’s the baseline for the standard home and performance approach. So if they weren’t doing that before, and they want to move forward without it, that’s going to be a huge hit to their compliance – around seven to 11 percent, depending on their climate zone. And if they’re currently doing it as a compliance credit, they won’t be able to do so anymore, so that’s something they’ll have to overcome as well.

How do you expect these changes to influence the housing market in California?

Christopher Olvera: We’re not really in the business of developing housing policy, and we can’t predict what the housing market will do. But what we can say in general about the new requirements is that homes built under the new 2019 energy code will be more energy efficient, healthy, and comfortable than homes built under previous standards. Homeowners should, and will, have lower energy bills.

How do you expect the mandate to affect the existing skilled labor shortage?

Mazi Shirakh: If you look at the jobs in the energy sector, solar is one of the biggest influencers in the state already — on par with fossil fuels, if not larger. There are some statistics on that.

The good thing about these jobs is that they’re in-state jobs that cannot be outsourced. They’re good paying jobs, and they’ll continue to be here. So, for the solar employment sector, I think it’s very positive both in California and nationally.

Christopher Olvera: Also, in terms of labor and the ability to find skilled workers for this, the residential housing market grows by about 10 percent annually. There is some fluctuation specific to the market, but right now we’re seeing the penetration rate of solar into existing buildings exceeding five percent. So the number of people that are currently working in the industry to install on existing homes is actually significantly larger than the amount of people that would be needed to service the new construction that’s occurring.

So that increase in labor – where we’re adding new homes to the existing homes – should be something we expect the market to absorb. It is going to create some jobs. There’s going to be a need for more trained professionals, but there’s enough out there that I think we can move into that. Especially given that the actual permits being issued that require that solar are going to slowly roll out over time. So, I think it’s going to be an increase in the market, but I think it’s one that the market can absorb.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Christopher Olvera: We look forward to working with Builder.Media. We definitely encourage your readers to visit our website and utilize our resources to get more information.

If they are interested in getting involved in the development process and providing input on the proposed energy code regulations, even though 2019 has not gone into effect yet, the process has already begun for the 2022 code cycle. So if they want more information about that process and how to participate, that information is available on www.title24stakeholders.com, and also on our website, www.energy.ca.gov.

It is a cycle that is ongoing. An upside to that is that we’re always able to address concerns that people have. It’s a three-year rolling cycle, so it might take some time for a change to be made to that code. But at any time, if there is some roadblock that folks are hitting, let us know, and we can see what might be done to solve a problem that we might not have intended to create.

Christopher Olvera, Supervisor of the Outreach Education Unit

Mazi Shirakh, Lead for ZNE & PV Requirements for Standardsd