The State of California has been in the forefront of providing guidelines and mechanisms in efforts to reduce climate change. For example, its emissions standards for the auto industry set the emissions criteria for the nation, criteria now being scaled back by the current administration.

The California Energy Commission is now tackling greenhouse gas emissions with its unanimous passage of the 2019 Building Energy Code. This code requires every residential building up to three stories high to be built with solar installations. The code also positions the state as the leader in more sustainable residential construction and bolsters solar industry installers and manufacturers in the state.

According to Safe California Energy, the 2019 Building Energy Code will save some $1.7B in energy costs and will cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Over 30 years, it’s estimated that home energy use will be cut by 53%.

As with every action, there are pros, cons and in-betweens. The California Building Industry Association supported the passage of the 2019 Building Energy Code but wanted its 2020 implementation date to be delayed an additional 2-3 years.

The California Association of REALTORS® (CAR) also supported the passage of the Building Energy Code but worries that reducing greenhouse gas emissions may make the state’s housing and lack of affordability crisis even more challenging to solve.

Currently, according to CAR, the median price of a single-family house is $565,000. Estimates are that the new mandate to install solar panels will add $9,500 to the cost of a new home. The California Energy Commission counters CAR ‘s concerns with estimates of $16,2512 in savings over time to make up for the solar panels upfront expenses.

Brandon De Young, the executive vice president of De Young Properties that specializes in energy efficient construction in Fresno, also counters CAR’s concerns. “I know from experience that energy efficient homes sell faster and bring a better price…and data from the Department of Energy backs me up on this.”

The 2019 Building Energy Code also includes provisions for lighting upgrades for community buildings estimated to cut energy usage by 30% and for ventilation requirements in hospitals and health care facilities. Exceptions for buildings shaded by trees, taller buildings and “too small” roofs will be made. And, for energy efficiency purposes, builders will be allowed to install solar panels in commercial areas instead of rooftops.

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