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California's Title 24 Energy Code Tightens Rules for Building Controls, Commissioning

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Revisions to California's Building Energy Efficiency Standards take effect on July 1 and contain new rules for building controls and commissioning.

Changed for the first time since 2008, the 2013 standard requires the design team to complete a commissioning plan before building begins. This mandate is meant to support the development of holistic, performance-based approaches to energy-efficient design, says Eric Soladay, managing principal for Integral Group.

A focus on performance-based design means more widespread use of energy modeling. "For instance, lighting and heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems have to be put on separate [electric] panels so that designers know exactly where the energy use is coming from," Soladay says.

One of the biggest changes to the statewide code addresses lighting controls. The 2013 standards require automatic scheduling and timed switch controls that turn lights off during daylight hours. Also, lights will be required to feature many more adjustment settings. Further, new buildings will have to be "solar-ready," with rooftop accommodation for panel anchors and wiring pathways.

Stringent new codes can have a somewhat chilling effect on business deals, but that isn't the case with the changes to California's revised code, Integral says. "These aren't brand-new rules, and the incremental increases are designed so as not to shock the market," Soladay says.

The code, which applies to nearly all aspects of a building's energy footprint, was developed by the California Energy Commission and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The changes will pose challenges for new construction. "It is very difficult when you don't have a functioning building to estimate demand, incentives or energy-savings potentials," says Sila Kiliccote, the grid integration manager for the lab's Demand Response Research Center. But the catch is that automated demand response, which is part of the building's control system, is easier to add during design than after a building is done.

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