Decarbonizing Buildings: The City that Leads the Revolution

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The world needs to invest $90 trillion in decarbonizing buildings, the report finds. The investment will pay off handsomely with new jobs, cleaner air, and climate change impacts.

Table Of Content

  1. Introduction
  2. Updating the energy code and moving the needle
  3. Innovation in building efficiencies
  4. Costs and public benefits of the code
  5. Setting the standard
  6. Conclusion
  7. FAQ
  8. You May Also Like
  9. External Links

When it comes to decarbonizing the building sector proactively, practically, and cost-effectively, the California 2022 Energy Code for new construction and renovations is a trailblazer. Electric heat pumps are encouraged, electric-ready requirements for new homes are established, and ventilation standards are strengthened under the modified code adopted by the California Energy Commission (CEC) in August 2022. This revision marks the first time in the country that solar-plus-storage systems are used as the starting point for performance standards on any building type other than a residence. Estimates suggest that the state will reap $1.5 billion in environmental benefits from this policy over the following 30 years. Over the course of several years, the CEC guided a wide range of stakeholders, including some of California’s largest utilities, the construction industry, and environmental groups, through a thorough public process to draught this regulation.

Decarbonizing Buildings

Updating the energy code and moving the needle

About once every three years, California revises its Energy Code to cut down on excessively expensive, inefficient, and unnecessary energy use in brand-new construction. The Energy Code is a tool to safeguard consumers by ensuring that regulatory requirements are kept up-to-date in a manner that is both technologically viable and cost-effective. In California, over half of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, both commercial and residential.

California’s Energy Code provides a model for the proactive decarbonization of these sectors, which is essential and cost-effective in the state’s efforts to combat climate change. The objective of the CEC is to “guide the state to a 100% clean energy future for everybody,” and the Energy Code is seen as a crucial tool toward realising this goal.

Innovation in building efficiencies

The California Energy Code 2022 is the result of years of careful planning and implementation, and it takes advantage of the state’s most cutting-edge, commercially available technologies. Air-source heat pumps are a leading electric technology for both water and space heating, and their use is encouraged by the Code. When compared to other widely used systems, electric heat pumps are competitively priced while providing significant improvements in energy efficiency, significant reductions in GHG emissions, and the potential for load flexibility. Single-family houses, multifamily structures, and certain commercial buildings (including schools, offices, banks, libraries, retail stores, and grocery stores) all have heat pumps as their baseline for performance goals under the 2022 Energy Code. The energy savings from installing these heat pump solutions are optional and can be offset by making other improvements to the building’s energy efficiency, as calculated by a certified energy modelling programme.

The Energy Code’s pioneering regulations for commercial solar and storage installations are an example of its concrete advantages to the public. Battery storage lessens the grid’s dependency on fossil fuel power plants by making energy produced on-site available when it’s needed. High-rise multifamily buildings, hotel-motels, offices, medical offices, clinics, shops, grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and civic spaces are among the types of nonresidential structures that will be required to adhere to solar and storage standards beginning in 2022 as part of the Energy Code.

Since the market for electric homes and electric vehicles is expected to grow, the 2022 update also contains extra electric-ready standards for residential buildings. When a home is “electric ready,” it has the necessary wiring and outlets in place to power electric appliances in the near future.

Costs and public benefits of the code

Costing over $135 million over three years, updating and improving the building regulations to suit the state’s energy efficiency targets is a massive undertaking. When compared, the public benefits of the 2022 Energy Code are anticipated to be $1.5 billion in consumer and environmental benefits and the elimination of 10 million metric tonnes of GHG emissions, which is the same as removing approximately 2.2 million cars off the road for an entire year. Enhanced comfort, lower energy costs, and higher resale value are just a few of the many ways in which modernization contributes to the state’s overall aims.

The California Energy Code was designed to serve as a model for other jurisdictions; therefore, it is open and easily adaptable. The Energy Code is, in essence, a community-driven initiative for the common good. With help from the Public Utilities Commission and the state Codes & Standards Program, the CEC hosted and attended 45 stakeholder meetings and public workshops between April 2019 and the date of adoption. In addition, the CEC spent countless hours working with a wide range of public stakeholders, had three Lead Commissioner hearings, and reviewed more than 300 official public comments.

Decarbonizing Buildings

Setting the standard

Local municipalities in the state are free to set even higher standards than the minimums established by the Energy Code through the use of REACH codes. To be enforceable, locally established energy standards must be approved by the CEC and be more stringent than the state energy code’s requirements while still being cost-effective for the local jurisdiction. More than 40 reach codes for 2019’s Energy Code have been accepted. This exemplifies the adaptability and individuality of California’s Energy Code. It’s also a testament to the importance of the state’s municipalities in providing direction. Back at square one, the CEC analyses the state’s local reach codes for patterns to inspire following code cycles as statewide mandates, making local governments suitable partners in expanding the Energy Code’s sphere of influence.

The team responsible for updating the California Energy Code is also involved in attempts to update national energy codes, including the International Energy Conservation Code and ASHRAE 90.1. Because of the widespread nature of the code-development efforts being coordinated at this level of cooperation, there are always many chances for mutual learning.

Not only has the Energy Code changed the way buildings are constructed in California, but it has also influenced the efficiency standards adopted in other states and nations. In the past year alone, the CEC has received inquiries from governments in Denmark, Sweden, Mexico City, Tokyo, and elsewhere that are committed to climate action. There has been communication between these groups in an effort to share lessons learned from the implementation of California’s rooftop solar mandates and statewide building energy efficiency standards.

For its 2022 Energy Codes, the California Energy Commission received the Clean Energy States Alliance’s State Leadership in Clean Energy Award in 2022. (CESA). Energy codes are a tremendous lever for change, and the California Energy Commission has pushed the envelope and set the bar for what is achievable in terms of building regulations and renewable energy, as determined by an impartial body of judges. It’s helpful to have these standard codes to use as a benchmark in comparison with other states. In September of 2022, CESA will publish a report detailing a case study of California’s 2022 Energy Codes, along with those of the five other states that won 2022 State Leadership in Clean Energy Awards.


Around 38 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to the manufacturing and construction industries. Even if there are a variety of various technologies that may be used to decarbonize the sector, the rate at which investments are made in these solutions needs to pick up if they are going to be implemented in cities on a global scale.

Decarbonizing Buildings


Decarbonization of the economy refers to what exactly?

Decarbonization refers to the process of lowering atmospheric carbon emissions, most notably carbon dioxide (CO2). The goal is to reach climate neutrality through the energy transition, which will require a global economy with minimal emissions.

In order to construct net-zero energy structures, what are the three most important factors to think about?

A successful design for a structure that uses no energy whatsoever can be broken down into three main categories:

protection for the building’s shell. Shades and overhangs should be used to block the sun and lessen the need for the air conditioner or heater.

Saving energy is a priority.

use of alternative energy sources

How can a city achieve zero net emissions?

To cut down on carbon emissions and finally reach carbon neutrality, long-term plans that support renewable energy and energy efficiency are required. To reach carbon neutrality in the future, it will be necessary to shift away from energy sources that rely on fossil fuels and toward those that rely on renewable resources.

What is the definition of “decarbonization of buildings”?

The term “building decarbonization” is used to describe initiatives and plans that aim to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions from structures. To achieve its long-term climate goals, California must decarbonize its building stock.

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