California Energy Commission Expert Panel

The leaders in changing codes share insight, advice, and more as builders prepare for Title 24 changes

By CHRIS OLVERA, PETER STRAIT, MAZI SHIRAKH, AMBER BECK

  • Chris Olvera, Supervisor of the Outreach Education Unit
  • Peter Strait, Supervisor of Standards Development Unit
  • Mazi Shirakh, Lead for ZNE and PV Requirements for Standards
  • Amber Beck, Public Information Officer

What are the key changes to Title 24 being enacted January 1st?

Chris Olvera: As a summary for the changes for residential buildings: We have updates for the thermal envelope, which includes insulation for high-performance walls and attics, and QII verification – that’s quality, insulation, installation – as a prescriptive measure, and also some slight increases for energy efficiency on fenestration, which are your windows and skylights, and we’ve also applied some prescriptive requirements to exterior doors.

Also, there’s updates to the ventilation requirements to insure high indoor air quality, which includes higher ventilation rates per ASHRAE, 62.2, MERV 13 filters, and updates to the ventilation requirements for multifamily buildings, which applies to both low-rise and high-rise residential buildings.

Also, one of the big ones is the inclusion of PV system requirements for newly constructed low-rise residential buildings, which will include both single-family homes and multifamily buildings that are three habitable stories or less.

Peter Strait: We have two smaller changes, also. We have a prescriptive path that you can pursue for an all-electric residential building. We also added some flexibility to the Cal- Green prerequisite measures, for jurisdictions that end up adopting the CalGreen voluntary requirements.

Do you expect to see any changes at a national scale as a result?

Mazi Shirakh: I think so. We’ve had a number of conversations with officials in other states — actually, in other countries, too. California tends to be a trendsetter; when we develop something other people look at it, which is good.

Amber Beck: I think it’s also important to remember that before we adopted the standards, there were several entities here in California that had already adopted local REACH codes.

That means their building standards in their communities went over and above what we required here at the state level. Several entities, by the time we adopted the state code starting in 2020 already had some sort of PV requirement within their local ordinances.

Chris Olvera: We didn’t get to where we are today overnight. Over a decade ago there were policies and goals of ZNE. There were a lot of lessons learned, and now we’re transitioning to decarbonization of buildings. In the past decade, we’ve increased efficiency cost effectively, which has helped us get to where we are today: where the homes are energy efficient enough that we can have a reasonably sized PV system to install that’s cost effective.

Mazi Shirakh: Many states are developing clean policies regarding their grid very similar to California. We had a 50 percent renewable goal by 2030, which recently got updated to 60 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2045. Many other states are following suit. So the question is, what’s the best way of getting there? Is it by rooftop PV system, or centralized, or both? So that’s a discussion going on here and in other states.

Can you speak to any resources that may help builders with the initial cost of adding solar?

Chris Olvera: Talking about PV specifically, we do have responses to frequently asked questions on our website about the new PV requirement, so I highly recommend reading over that resource if you haven’t yet.

To talk about resources that are available in general, you asked what advice we had for builders hoping to become more knowledgeable about the requirements. Our suggestion is, “Get in touch, get involved, and be knowledgeable about the new requirements.”

We do host several resources for builders and stakeholders on our website. It’s the online resource center. We have training materials, which we break down by building component, HVAC, lighting, envelope, etc. We have videos, brochures, fact sheets, etc. to help the building community and enforcement agencies to understand how to comply with the requirements.

Periodically, we also do host training sessions, and we also work with Energy Code Ace and utilities to provide more training opportunities. In addition, we have an energy standards hotline that can offer one-on-one help, either by phone or by email. They can call toll-free in California at 1 (800) 772-3300, or they can email us at Title24@energy.ca.gov.

Lastly, we do have Blueprint. It’s a quarterly newsletter that provides responses to frequently asked questions and articles.

Peter Strait: My advice would be, “Don’t psych yourself out.” As much as solar is a new element, we’ve already had a solar zone on designs, we’re just coloring it in now with the panels. There are good solar suppliers out there that you can work with. There’s a thriving market of experienced installers. This isn’t going to be as hard as it might seem now.

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