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?
- What Local Governments Need to Know about Energy Efficiency Reach Codes
- Reach Codes for the 2019 California Building Code
- Adopted Reach Codes
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.
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:
- A reach code must be at least as stringent as the statewide code.
- A reach code must be cost effective.
- A reach code must be approved by the California Energy Commission.
- A reach code needs to be re-approved with each Energy Code update.
More information and links to relevant laws can be found here.
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.
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.
Over a third of Bay Area local governments have already adopted reach codes. For those just starting the process, a rough timeline for reach code development and adoption is available here.
Local governments can only require increased energy efficiency when it is cost effective (click here for more background information). Most cost-effectiveness studies are prepared by the Statewide Utilities’ Codes & Standards Team and can be accessed on their local energy codes website.
Model reach codes were developed by a team of organizations (including BayREN), and local governments can access them in several places:
- The Local Energy Codes website has model ordinances in the “5 Paths to Reach Beyond” section;
- The Clean Building Compass website provides links to model ordinances and other supporting information; and
- Peninsula Clean Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy created a website with model ordinances for jurisdictions in climate zones 3 and 4 (San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, as well as coastal parts of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties)
- Reach codes that have been adopted by other nearby jurisdictions can also serve as model ordinances (see below for links to 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 at the bottom of this webpage: http://localenergycodes.com/
California-Specific Reach Code Resources
- California Energy Commission: https://www.energy.ca.gov/programs-and-topics/programs/building-energy-efficiency-standards/2019-building-energy-efficiency-3
- Statewide IOU Reach Code Team: http://localenergycodes.com/
- Local Government Sustainable Energy Coalition: http://eecoordinator.info/tag/reach-codes/
National Reach Code Resources
- New Buildings Institute: https://newbuildings.org/code_policy/utility-programs-stretch-codes/stretch-codes/
- Zero Code: https://zero-code.org/
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