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California Energy Commission Adopts Revised Energy-Efficient Requirements for New Commercial Construction

California Energy Commission Adopts Revised Energy-Efficient Requirements for New Commercial Construction

California continues to lead the way when it comes to sustainable building and energy efficiency standards. Recently, the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved new energy-efficient requirements applicable to newly constructed commercial buildings, as well as additions and alterations to existing buildings, are scheduled to take effect January 1, 2014. Referred to as the “2013 Building Energy Efficiency Standards” (2013 Standards), they promise to make newly constructed and/or altered buildings in California the most energy efficient in the nation.

Chris headshotSince the first such standards were adopted in 1977, CEC’s Building Efficiency Standards are estimated to have saved Californians more than $66 billion in electricity and natural gas costs through the use of energy efficient building and appliance standards, and have helped protect the environment by reducing more than 250 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The Standards are revised approximately every three years to implement new policy directives and technology. Over time, the Standards have implemented developments in energy-saving technology such as better windows, insulation, air conditioning and other features that reduce energy consumption in homes and businesses.

The revised Standards are 30 percent more energy efficient than the 2008 Standards, and will implement several state energy policy directives that have been promulgated since the 2008 Standards were adopted, such as CEC’s goal of achieving “zero net energy” for all newly constructed buildings by 2030. “Net zero energy” buildings consume as much energy as they generate on an annual basis through a renewable energy system, by minimizing a building’s energy use through energy-efficient measures, and then meeting that need through onsite renewable energy generation.

Some of the more significant new efficiency requirements include:

• The use of sensors to adjust lighting systems near windows to produce more or less light based upon the amount of natural light entering the space, known as “day lighting.” A 2002 CEC study concluded that thoughtful use of daylight can improve lighting quality, increase productivity, and reduce energy consumption.

• Solar-ready roofs to allow business to add solar photovoltaic panels at a future date. Flat, open rooftops on large commercial buildings offer the perfect real estate for solar systems, and solar-ready roofs will allow building owners to take advantage of this with minimal added cost.

• More efficient process equipment in supermarkets, computer data centers, laboratories, parking garages and commercial kitchens. Cooling equipment are often the greatest users of electricity, and the new Standards require commercial buildings to take advantage of new cooling technology that has been developed.

The 2013 Standards also recommend cool roofs through the use of lighter colored roofing material to reflect the sun’s heat away from the building. They also recommend high efficiency heating and cooling equipment and improved windows to keep buildings cool in the summer months and warm during the winter months.

Implementation of the 2013 Standards over the course of the next 30 years will save the state nearly 14,000 megawatt hours, enough electricity to power 1.7 million homes, and thereby avoid the need to construct six new power plants. Additionally, the 2013 Standards are anticipated to aid California’s struggling economy by generating 3,500 new jobs within the building industry during the first year of implementation.

In sum, the 2013 Standards will result in long-term energy cost savings for commercial building owners; savings which building owners can pass on to their tenants.

Christopher Cardinale is an associate with the law firm of Alvarez-Glasman & Colvin (AGC), located in City of Industry, Calif., and is a member of AGC’s Sustainable Development Practice Group. AGC is a leader in the sustainable development, and has experience in advising clients on matters relating to compliance with green building regulations, legalities in solar rights and renewable energy, and sustainable community development. For additional information Alvarez-Glasman & Colvin’s Sustainable Development Law Practice Group, please visit

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