In California, Title 24 of the Code of Regulations sets the building code standards for all jurisdictions statewide.  However, local governments can adopt more stringent requirements, which are known as reach codes.

Energy efficiency reach codes are often one component of a green building ordinance, although these ordinances can also include requirements for water efficiency, green materials, and other items. Information on this page focuses on energy efficiency reach codes in particular, which both reduce energy use and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Although these are referred to here simply as “reach codes,” the discussion below is specific to energy efficiency reach codes and may be different for other types of reach codes.


The information and links provided here are intended specifically to help local governments who may be considering or working on a reach code. The following links will take you directly to each section, or you can also reach them by scrolling down:

Why Adopt a Reach Code?

Requiring new development to meet higher standards for energy efficiency can have several benefits. For example, higher standards:

  • will lead to increased savings of both energy and money.
  • will usually reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • may help a local government fulfill an action from a Climate Action Plan, or otherwise meet greenhouse gas reduction goals.

What Local Governments Need to Know about Energy Efficiency Reach Codes

Legal Requirements for Reach Codes

Energy efficiency reach codes are similar to other local ordinances, but there are special requirements for reach codes.  Like other local laws, reach codes cannot conflict with federal requirements (federal preemption). There are also some requirements that are particular to reach codes, such as:

  1. A reach code must be at least as stringent as the statewide code.
  2. A reach code must be cost effective.
  3. A reach code must be approved by the California Energy Commission.
  4. A reach code needs to be re-approved with each Energy Code update.

More information and links to relevant laws can be found here.

Process and Timeline for Reach Code Adoption

While each jurisdiction will bring its own unique approach, the process of developing and adopting a reach code will generally include certain steps, starting with engaging with local stakeholders and obtaining a cost-effectiveness study.  Information about these steps and a generalized timeline are available here.

Types of Reach Codes

Broadly speaking, there are two types of reach codes:

  • Prescriptive codes, which require one or more specific energy efficiency measures; and
  • Performance codes, which require a building to perform more efficiently based on accepted computer modelling and allow trade-offs between energy efficiency measures.

In addition, some local governments are considering codes which require measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or to make such reductions possible, but are not energy efficiency measures. These would include requirements that new developments be electric vehicle (EV) ready, or that changes to electrical systems trigger electric panel upgrades that could accommodate new, more efficient electric technologies.

Additional information on each of these reach code types, including more examples, is available here.

Reach Codes for the 2019 California Building Code

Some Bay Area local governments are already working to develop reach codes, so that they can be adopted to take effect at the same time as the updated California Building Code (January 1, 2020). More information on the timeline for reach code development and adoption, and related timing issues, is available here.

Most reach code efforts at this point relate to cost-effectiveness studies, because local governments can only require increased energy efficiency when it is cost effective (click here for more background information).  Understanding what reach codes can be supported by different cost-effectiveness studies can be complicated and technical. BayREN and other organizations will be developing resources to help local governments with this step, and links will be posted here as they become available.

Efforts in Process in the Bay Area

  • The City of Palo Alto has completed a cost-effectiveness study: see here for more information.
  • Peninsula Clean Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy, as well as the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability, are convening stakeholders to develop model reach codes for building electrification and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. For more information on this effort, click here.
  • The Statewide Utilities’ Codes & Standards Team has funded two cost-effectiveness studies which are in process:
    • Residential study
    • Photovoltaic Panels and Commercial Development

Adopted Reach Codes

The California Energy Commission maintains a webpage with links to all adopted reach codes in the state: 

In addition, the Statewide Investor-Owned Utilities’ Reach Code Team provides information about adopted reach codes in both list and map format (you will need to create an account to download information):


California-Specific Reach Code Resources

National Reach Code Resources

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