What You Need To Know About Title 24
When the Green Building Council was founded a quarter century ago, few people at the time could imagine the effect it would have on building and design standards of the future. Today, a network of more than 70 councils across the globe continues to promote sustainable practices and energy efficient reforms for the structures humans inhabit, from work spaces to vacation homes, and for the vehicles they use.
The emphasis has led to widespread public acceptance, but also to some grumbling. Overall, voluntary compliance in addition to government authority has influenced the way modern homes, factories, schools, hospitals, office buildings and recreational facilities are designed and constructed.
It’s not only the buildings themselves, but also the the systems and materials they contain, that have changed. Code compliant buildings cost more, to be sure, but the public demanded higher standards as well, and governments responded by raising the bar for performance.
The reforms and resulting standards, including inspection and certification for both the buildings and those who build them, add complexity to the industry. There is no turning back, but the effort to remain knowledgeable, compliant and cost effective is more difficult today than it was even 10 or 15 years ago.
Energy Saving Efforts in California
In California, Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations is the bible for architects, engineers and construction professionals. Compliance with Title 24 is not voluntary, and the code is comprehensive and complete. There are actually 12 separate sections included, but most frequent discussion is directed at Part 6, which contains the state’s energy code mandates.
California’s basic energy standards actually predate most sustainability standards; they were originally drafted in 1978 by the state’s Building Standards Commission in an effort to reduce energy consumption statewide.
The latest update, in 2016, incorporates new technology and builds upon 2008 directives to address global warming and to incorporate additional requirements designed to improve and expand energy efficiency of non-residential buildings.
Three primary areas of compliance fall under the purview of regulators:
- Building Envelope
- Mechanical Systems
Building plans must conform to the state’s current minimum standards in order for a permit to be issued, and building inspectors during the course of construction will monitor compliance.
Recent Changes to Title 24
Among the more significant changes in the 2016 updates are requirements that previously exempt processes and building elements — including moving walkways and elevators — are now included in the standards. Title 24 compliance is necessarily a team effort, and it begins with the plans. The good news is that design teams today have access to sophisticated energy simulation software.
Insulation standards were increased, and new requirements deal with storefront glazing and other materials options, in addition to weather barriers and pressurization. Title 24 HVAC upgrades address not only sophisticated controls, but also detail efficiency standards. Finally, networked lighting that is dimmable and automatically adjustable in many situations is virtually required under the new regulations.
With the changes come higher costs. It is inevitable.
Early documentation requirements are more stringent than they were previously, and must be submitted on authorized forms at the time of permit application. The calculations are time-consuming and exacting, but they are required for every commercial project. Title 24, by law, must be updated every three years, so there is little hope that procedures will become easier.
Contractor Certification under Title 24
Contractors in specific trades typically hold licenses; the most common are for plumbing and electrical work. Under Title 24, however, there are a number of specially certifications available, including a new category added in conjunction with the most recent update. A Mechanical Acceptance Test Technician (ATT) category joins the Lighting Controls ATT authorized previously.
Title 24 certification for specialized trades, including electrical, plumbing and HVAC, is managed by third-party inspectors, allowing individuals and firms the ability to demonstrate ongoing awareness of code requirements and standards. It adds another layer of cost. Becoming a certified contractor involves study and testing, but it does, on balance, offer beneficial rewards in terms of preparedness. Because code adherence during the building process is subject to inspection, and non-compliance can result in fines and construction delays, certified contractors are valuable team members who can be relied upon to maintain quality standards.
Everyone benefits from thoroughly trained, knowledgeable, certified contractors.
Each update to Title 24 requirements brings some “turbulence” and a measure of frustration. But none of the requirements will be going away anytime soon, so those of us involved in any aspect of commercial construction are duty-bound to become as familiar as possible with existing standards and successive updates, and with new certification requirements.
What the Public Should Know About Title 24
Developers, brokers, building owners and leasing managers must also be aware of Title 24 requirements, particularly as they pertain to interior finish-outs, renovation and the energy code. Even though ratings systems like Energy Star, and programs such as LEED certification are important, they may be more or less stringent than state code. It is the state, though, that determines whether a commercial building in California may be built, renovated or occupied. And it is the state’s standards that have a profound effect on final building cost.
It is not always true that the standards are interchangeable or that guidelines for a particular project can be applied to the next. If you’re asking yourself, “How do I become Title 24 certified,” the easiest answer is that you should insist at the outset that the team you work with — including all contractors, subcontractors, designers and engineers, are fully cognizant of the standards and the latest requirements.
Your team will be our guide through the details of how to do Title 24 calculations. There are also specialized firms that act as consultants on specific compliance issues, and their input and insights can be valuable.
What’s Ahead for California Buildings
In terms of energy consumption and cost savings, the future is actually exciting. While there is at present no commercial equivalent to the Home Energy Rating System (known as HERS), such a rating system may be developed in the future to provide incentives to surpass rather than just meet the commercial standards of Title 24. Whether this might be of benefit or not falls in the realm of conjecture.
It has been amply demonstrated, though, that consumers will pay a premium for exemplary performance.As a commercial general contractor, we are committed to building fully compliant structures, with the goal of offering the best value for the lowest possible cost to each client.