Updates to Title 24

Updated building standards will push professionals to promote the value of green to boost sales


Homebuilders across the nation should take heed of the regulatory changes occurring in California. The trend of states increasing energy efficiency regulations is not likely to slow down, but rather, will almost certainly spread east. Ultimately, all states will adopt similar legislation to help move the built environment towards sustainability, and ultimately, to combat climate change.

Currently, California has the most comprehensive energy standards of any U.S. state, widely referred to as Title 24. These have been enacted step by step in order to better accommodate builders as they transition. In January of 2020, California’s 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards will officially take effect.

For builders, there are many reasons to look into the updates and changes to building standards. These will impact every level of industry professionals – from the manufacturers to the consumers. As long as professionals take note of the changes to come and prepare for them, there is a lot of opportunity to increase profit.


Changes Taking Effect January 1, 2020

When the 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards take effect, there will be some significant changes for builders; preparing will allow these changes to be implemented smoothly.

One of the most notable changes that will be taking effect is the requirement of solar photovoltaic systems for new homes. This will impact all new homes that have three stories or fewer.

“Once rooftop solar electricity generation is factored in, homes built under the 2019 standards will use about 53 percent less energy than those under the 2016 standards,” explained Ying Wang and Lance A. Williams of Okapi Architecture in an article for Green Home Builder Magazine. “This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 700,000 metric tons over three years.”

Costs of solar are expected to be lower by 2020 as competition increases in the solar manufacturing industry. According to J. Andrew McAllister, the California Energy Commission’s lead commissioner for energy efficiency, the standards also allow for community-scale solar as an alternative to rooftop solar systems; this option could add value while minimizing cost.

In addition to photovoltaic systems, the updated standards will address thermal envelope, ventilation, and nonresidential lighting.

The standards encourage demand-responsive technologies, like battery storage and heat pump water heaters. The residential standards also help to improve the building’s thermal envelope, which saves energy. Highly efficient air filters can trap hazardous particles and toxins to improve ventilation systems, which will help builders ensure that the home’s indoor air quality is healthy for residents.

“This part 6 update represents an important step for consumers and helps to achieve California’s energy and climate goals,” McAllister explained in an interview with Green Home Builder Magazine.

Preparing for Success

The updated standards will have dramatic positive impacts in the effort to reduce carbon emissions. However, as with any comprehensive reform, builders that are better prepared will more easily adjust to the changes.

For example, the 2019 standards will add to the cost of a new home. According to the California Energy Commission, the standards will increase the cost of a new home’s construction by about $9,500, but will save $19,000 in energy and maintenance costs over 30 years.

Educated homebuilders will be able to inform prospective buyers of long-term savings. While some may be reluctant to pay the higher price up front, a recent study from the National Association of Home Builders indicated that the majority of prospective homebuyers are willing to pay the greater price when it results in long-term savings on utility costs.

The California Energy Commission also offers a variety of resources for builders looking to educate themselves, from fact sheets to training programs. It is key to note that there are currently a number of incentives for building more sustainably. Taking advantage of existing incentives is another way to save costs and add value.

Jennifer Berthelot, CEO of A SustainAble Production (ASAP), spoke to the importance of getting ahead of the curve in a recent interview with Green Home Builder Magazine: “I think that’s something for people to realize: it will be mandated in the future and the incentives won’t exist… So, looking at that now and getting ahead of the curve would be huge for people to save them a ton of money.”

Reducing the carbon footprint of the built environment is crucial to meeting the international standards set by the Paris Agreement to combat climate change. According to McAllister, this update will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of eliminating 115,000 cars from California’s streets.

In an interview with Green Home Builder Magazine, Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO of the United States Green Building Council, made a statement on the subject.

“Consumers are equally asking for a more sustainable and equitable future for all, and are increasingly making their spending choices on that basis,” explained Ramanujam.

Homebuyers want to save on utility fees. Consumers are looking for sustainability as a feature in the homes they buy. The standards will soon require similar methods in all states, but homebuilders that are prepared and implementing these features early will yield excellent results.

Julia Edinger is the Editor at Green Home Builder Magazine. She can be reached at julia@builder.media.