2019 Standards Update

On May 9, the California Energy Commission (CEC) adopted the 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards, the latest triennial update to Title 24, Part 6 of the California building code. The State of California has set a goal to reach zero net energy (ZNE) in all new residential construction and the 2019 Standards are a big step toward that goal. Beginning January 1, 2020, new residential construction will be required to have enough renewable energy installed to offset all the site electricity needs of a home. In addition to a requirement for solar on every home, there are several other substantial changes you should know about going into 2020. Compliance will be measured as a rating instead of just energy consumption, batteries will receive compliance credit under the new code, and the CEC has provided an option for builders to comply with the Standards using a community solar and/or storage option.

The 2019 Standards will use a metric called the Energy Design Rating (EDR) to show compliance with the standards instead of an energy budget, which has been the method used up to now. An EDR score of 100 means that the home uses as much energy as a home built to the 2006 IECC Standards. An EDR of 0 represents a ZNE home. The Standards set two targets for compliance: an efficiency EDR that must be met using efficiency features, and a renewables/flexibility EDR that may be met using a combination of solar, storage, and/or efficiency features. EDR targets are calculated by a CEC approved compliance software.

Required solar system sizes will range from 2.5 kW to 5 kW depending on region, square footage, and efficiency features. The addition of solar to the electric grid means that load management may become a challenge for utilities. To address this, the CEC is providing a generous credit for batteries installed along with solar systems. A portion of the credit may be used to offset efficiency features. If a builder cannot or chooses not to install rooftop solar, the builder may install an offsite community solar or battery system.

The previous measures are all related to renewable energy and represent new and significant changes to code requirements. The incremental increase in efficiency requirements for 2019 are minor compared to previous code cycles. The 2016 Standards updates introduced high performance walls (HPW) and attics (HPA), with insulation above or below the roof deck and 2×6 walls with insulative sheathing. Both requirements necessitated significant changes to historical building practice. In 2020, the CEC is slightly increasing the insulation value required at the roof deck and the total assembly insulation value required for walls. Attics will need to have R-19 insulation installed below the roof deck and walls will need to be even more insulated. Changes to code requirements will also mean that builders will have to install HPA/HPW and solar, instead of either/or which was allowed with the 2016 code.

In the past few code cycles, Quality insulation installation (QII) has been a compliance option used to trade off other efficiency requirements. In 2020 QII will be a prescriptive requirement and responsible for the largest increase in stringency in the 2019 Standards.

Minor changes were made throughout the Standards, included changes to fenestration, furnace, water heating, ventilation, and lighting requirements. You can read the latest published language here.

For training opportunities through the Workforce Instructions for Standards Efficiency (WISE) program, please go to the WISE website, where you can find online training videos and request on-site training from WISE instructors.

For upcoming trainings near you, see the WISE events calendar.

And while you’re on the WISE website, don’t forget to sign up for the mailing list to receive updates about trainings and resources provided by the WISE program.