California builders should be aware of a new set of energy efficiency standards set to go into effect on July 1, 2014. The California Energy Commission’s Energy Efficiency Standards (Standards) were promulgated in 1977 to increase electricity and natural gas conservation. The Standards have purportedly saved Californians more than $74 billion in reduced electricity bills since their inception, and it is estimated they will save Californians $1.6 billion in energy costs over the next 30 years. The Standards are periodically updated to allow for consideration and incorporation of new energy efficient technology and advances. The Standards are part of the California Building Standards Code, Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations, and are also known as “The Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential and Nonresidential Buildings.”

One of the changes for both residential and nonresidential buildings is the creation of a central repository to store compliance documentation that can be used by the Energy Commission and others to improve compliance with the Standards and evaluate the program. Section 10-103. Other changes affecting all buildings include Section 10-111 describing the rules for reporting fenestration U-factor, SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient), and VT (visual transmittance); Section 10-110.3(c)(5) explaining the requirements for water heating recirculation loops; and Section 10-110.9 which now covers ballasts and luminaires and residential vacancy sensors.

Changes Applicable to Nonresidential Buildings

The Standards impose a number of changes for nonresidential buildings. The Standards fall into eight main categories: envelope, lighting, mechanical, electrical power distribution systems, process loads, solar ready, commissioning and compliance option. A non-exhaustive overview of the new requirements is detailed below.


For the envelope category, the new Standards require increased low-slope roof requirements; a maximum air leakage rate; increased fenestration requirements; and mandatory minimum wall and roof insulation requirements.


For lighting, there are a number of new changes. Some of these changes include: advanced multi-level lighting controls; enhancing, modifying and daylighting controls mandatory requirements; requirements for demand responsive reduction of lighting power being applied to smaller spaces; mandatory automated lighting controls and switching requirements in warehouses and libraries; mandatory automated multi-level lighting shut-off controls for hotels and multifamily buildings; new mandatory sensor and daylighting controls in parking garage spaces; increased requirements for multi-level lighting controls for nonresidential outdoor lighting; requiring automatic shut-off controls of electric circuits that serve plug loads in office buildings; hotel/motel guest room occupancy controls for HVAC and lighting systems; and added threshold requirements for when lighting retrofits must comply with the Standards.


For mechanical, the Standards provide, in part, for: added requirements for fan control and integrated economizers; reduced ability for HVAC systems to reheat conditioned air; increased chiller efficiency requirements; increased cooling tower energy efficiency and water savings; added requirements for commercial boiler combustion controls; added acceptance tests for HVAC sensors and controls; and added efficiency requirements for small motors.

Electrical Power Distribution Systems

For electrical power distribution systems, the changes include: added requirements for user accessible metering of total electrical use; disaggregation of electrical circuits; added maximum voltage drop requirements; added mandatory requirement for receptacle controls in offices, lobbies, conference rooms, kitchens and copy rooms to automatically shut off task lighting when not occupied; and added requirements for demand responsive controls and equipment.

Process Loads

In the process loads category, the Standards require: added mandatory requirements for commercial supermarket refrigeration; increased mandatory requirements for refrigerated warehouses; added ventilation control requirements for commercial kitchens; added prescriptive requirements for laboratory exhaust VAV (variable-air-volume) and heat recovery; and added mandatory ventilation control requirements for parking garages, computer data centers and process boilers.

Solar Power

The Standards require that nonresidential building make provisions to more easily enable the future addition of solar electric or solar water heating systems.


Commissioning requirements add mandatory requirements for design-phase commissioning, which includes an early review of design intent documents and highlighting efficiency specifications in both construction documents and Standards compliance forms. The Standards also add a performance standard compliance requirement to produce a whole building performance rating twice: once during design permit stage (design rating) and then after construction acceptance testing (as-built rating).

Compliance Option

Finally, there is a compliance option for hybrid evaporative cooling systems in nonresidential buildings.

Changes Applicable to Residential Buildings

In the residential building sector, builders need to be aware of a variety of new Standards. A non-exhaustive list of the mandatory requirements includes: duct sealing in all climate zones; return duct design or fan power and airflow testing; improving and clarifying the mandatory lighting requirements for all residential buildings; at least one high efficacy luminaire in each bathroom; and updated requirements for LED luminaires for manufacturers to certify to qualify as high efficacy.

Local Efficiency Standards

In addition to the statewide Standards, Public Resources Code Section 25402.1(h)(2) and Section 10-106 of the Standards provide for local adoption of energy standards that are more stringent than the statewide Standards. This means that some local governments may adopt and enforce energy standards that require additional energy conservation measures, and/or set more stringent energy budgets. Local governments are required to apply to the Energy Commission for approval. Only those local ordinances that have been approved by the Energy Commission are legally enforceable.

Builders bidding for jobs need to make sure that they are accounting for these changes, and design team and design consultants need to ensure that the contract documents abide by the Standards. Failure to comply with the Standards could ultimately result in project delays and unexpected additional costs.