Reach codes can require one or more specific energy efficiency improvements (prescriptive reach codes), or can require a building to use less energy than average through a variety of optional measures (performance reach codes). These approaches can also be combined in a hybrid version. In addition, there are a number of related codes which are not specifically energy efficiency measures, but which local governments may consider for other reasons. All of these types are described below.


New Construction Reach Code Types and Examples

Prescriptive Reach Codes

This type of reach code is simplest to understand and enforce. Local governments can use this type of reach code to require new development to include one or more specific features in order to reduce energy use.
Examples of prescriptive reach codes in the 2016 code cycle include:
  • Requiring solar panels on one or more types of new buildings (Sebastopol, Alameda County, Fremont, Brisbane, San Francisco)
  • Requiring reduced outdoor lighting (Fremont)
  • Requiring cool roofs (Brisbane, San Mateo)

Performance Reach Codes

These reach codes are more complicated, but also allow greater flexibility. Together with the Energy Code, the California Energy Commission also determines how much energy different types of buildings are likely to use. Local governments can therefore require new development to use even less energy on average.
Examples of performance reach codes in the 2016 code cycle include:
  • Exceeding minimum building energy performance by 15% (Healdsburg, Novato, Mill Valley)
  • Exceeding minimum building energy performance if solar panels are not installed, by different amounts for different types of development (Palo Alto)

Hybrid Reach Codes

It is possible to combine the prescriptive and performance approaches to reach codes. In Marin County, for example, there are different solar panel and performance requirements for different sizes of residential buildings, but a home which is all-electric or which is Passive House certified does not need to meet these.

Other Related Codes

Some related codes don’t specifically require increased energy efficiency, but they may cause less energy to be used or they may increase the likelihood of electrification (and reduced greenhouse gas emissions). These codes are different in that they should not require cost-effectiveness studies or approval by the California Energy Commission, although they will need to meet other requirements.
 
Examples of this type of code in the 2016 code cycle include:
  • Requiring electric vehicle charging stations (Marin County, San Francisco)
  • Requiring electric vehicle charging readiness (Marin County, Oakland, Fremont)
  • Requiring energy audits (Berkeley)
  • Requiring solar zones (Palo Alto)

Existing Buildings and Reach Codes

Most reach codes apply to new buildings only. Because buildings last 30-50 years or even longer, constructing them to be as efficient as possible makes sense and maximizes energy savings. This means that energy efficiency is especially important for new buildings.
 
Existing buildings, however, comprise most of the building stock. These buildings are often inefficient and could be upgraded to save a great deal of energy, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions significantly. However, requiring these upgrades is complicated by the variety of types among existing buildings and by the financial outlay that some of these upgrades could require. Although all reach codes must be cost-effective and pay for themselves over time, some may require a substantial upfront cost. Key questions to consider in developing a reach code for existing buildings include:
  • What type and level of project will trigger the reach code?
  • Will there be exceptions for certain types of buildings or residents (historic buildings, senior citizens)?
  • Is the cost of complying with the reach code reasonable given the size of the project and the expected return on investment?
  • Are there incentives which could assist property owners in complying with the reach code?
 
Some Californian cities have been working to develop a reach code for existing buildings, and a cost-effectiveness study was completed in 2018 that examined several measures and packages of measures. The cost-effectiveness study can be accessed here.
 
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