Zero Energy Homes in California by 2020

by , 11/07/07
filed under: Architecture, News, Policy

carbon neutral, california, energy, houses, residences

The Governator’s state is laying down the zero energy law, requiring that all new homes in California must be carbon neutral by 2020 if a proposal adopted by California’s energy regulators is enacted. Gutsy? Definitely. Crazy? Maybe not…

It’s just not residences that will need to move towards a Carbon Neutral model, commercial buildings will need to meet this target by 2030. California joins the United Kingdom in mandating that all new homes become carbon neutral in the near future. Much like California’s formaldehyde standard, the impact that this proposal would have on the building industry will be enormous.

“Saving energy will be a lifestyle,” Commissioner Dian Grueneich said at Thursday’s meeting. “It keeps the lights on, it saves money and it significantly decreases greenhouse-gas emissions.”

+ Energy neutral homes urged @ LA Times

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  1. Ryan Brown November 18, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    California isn’t alone on this one. We’re trying here in Austin as well. Check it out:

    Austin leads way in energy efficiency

  2. simon seasons November 12, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    Oh for a ratings system in Australia soon that truelly reflects the needs of the enviroment. I think that NSW in Australia is also planning to bring in retrofit legislation. As well and that, quite a few local governments, notably Byron Bay in Northern NSW already require it to get planning approvals. We have a general election in Australia on the 24th of Nov, which may or may not be a good opportunity to promote realistic ratings systems being applied to all housing stock Australia wide, new and existing. In one swoop it would, even at a five star level which i think is inadequate, force a 150% improvement if your estimate, Anna, is correct, in the woeful waste of resources and energy use that currently prevails.
    If a realistic appraisal of simply what good design can do for buildings, and including embodied energy, then a 200% to 400% improvement is possible with a ten star rating system (Ten stars would i guess be around platinum LEED) It would take some time, but that’s allright because we haven’t got any time left anyway.

    The main problem in Australia is that the rating system is more or less a voluntary one with the proviso that simply putting a solar panel and a water tank on can get you good rating with the result that most builders have a vested interest in doing just that and nothing about changing building methods that might force them to chenge over a few tools they use and shift to another supplier here and there and start ignoring the idea that aspect means facing the house to the letterbox. Designers and architechts, even if they want to change the building methods and orientation will find it difficult to get a builder who will do the work or a client to buy the building in the first place.

    Notable exceptions aside and there are lots of them and some of them very old, most buildings currenetly rely on air conditioning and do nothing to change the structure and fabric or orientation to utilise passive solar principles. To lots of builders and lots of designers and certainly lots of clients, Passive Solar means dirty hippie, lefty tree hugger, bludging waste of time. Sorry Ondine but your attitude to leftness is one of the biggest problems that the enviroment faces.
    Legislation need to be put past that forces people to build and buy enviromentally sustainable is that urgent and it has nothing whatsoever to do with forcing people to be lefty tree huggers.
    It is about GOOD DESIGN. I wont call it green design if that makes you happy but for goodness sake, get off your hippie trip and see the issue for what it really is. The worlds future is a bipartisan issue.

    Do any of our American brothers and sisters feel like writing to the Opposition (roughly equivelant to the Democrats in an Australian parliment) who are currently looking like good odds to winning government at this crucial election. For ten years we have been struggling in this country to get the Prime minister to even acknowlege Global Warming is any thing more than a lefty tree huggers conspiricy, let alone legislate to do something about it.
    The Opposition say they know it exists and have plans to introduce legislation that broadly tackles it, including signing onto the Kyoto Protocol but as yet I hear of no plans to do something about forcing the issue onto housing stock.
    If you want to you can write to the ‘Kevin 07′ website ( which is the ‘funky’ slogan of the oposition). Australia and America need an enforcable and realistic ratings system that recognises the huge inpact that constuction of and living / working in buildings has on the enviroment.
    Alongside re-aforrestation, buildings is where we can make the biggest impact and it is really a federal/national issue. Arnold Schwartsy and Al Gore will go down as heroes in history for doing their bit for the enviroment but at this crucial moment its our Presidents and Prime ministers that need to take the issue further.

  3. anna November 12, 2007 at 10:29 am

    Good point about retrofitting. Victoria, Australia has just introduced a law whereby all homes being renovated from May next year must be brought up to 5 star level as well as getting that snazzy new kitchen (for example).

    5 star is the current standard for all new homes in Victoria, most of the current building stock is around 2 stars. To give you an idea of this as a scale, 10 stars would mean that the building didn’t use any external energy whatsoever, though 5 stars is the maximum rating currently available using the standard rating system.

    But to be truly effective a rating system needs to include embodied energy costs as well.

  4. simon seasons November 9, 2007 at 9:57 am

    Just a bit further to my comments above, all new housing stock being zero carbon by 2020 will be the easy bit. Retrofitting the existing housing and building stock will be the hard task and by far the one with the biggest impact for the next 20 years
    There’s money in them thar hills for good designers and architects who can come up with refit ideas and techniques for existing buildings that will apply the same standard of green achievment being demanded of those designing the new stuff. Yi hah! Thank Goodness for California.

  5. simon seasons November 9, 2007 at 9:43 am

    Ondine, I hate to have to disappoinint you but lefty tree huggers have been trying to get you righty tree chippers to realise that good design IS green design for about fifty years easily and more. The research has been done and is only being added to by the fact that more and more architects are being introduced to ideas that people like Boyd in Australia and Frank Loyd Wright in your own country worked out two or three genberations ago,
    Getting the methods and construction guidelines written to reflect modern technologies and material science will be baking a piece of cake compared to getting poeple like you to open your eyes and realise that the techniques exist and only need to be applied across the board. Wake up and get with it, nifty.
    It is lefty tree huggers who came up with the ideas because it was they who saw the urgency of the need a long, long time ago. Do you even know that Schwartzy’s a republican by the way? Loosen up mate and realise that lefties actually care about your welfare too.

  6. Ondine November 8, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    Sounds nifty, but where are the government approved guidelines for the builders? I think the construction methods will need to be seeded among the contractors out there before these types of homes are built on a large scale. Research needs to done and methods need to be approved and added to building codes. Waiting for the lefty tree huggers to come up with ideas isn’t going to get us where we need to go fast enough.

  7. Michael Mckenzie November 8, 2007 at 10:13 am

    This is the ‘thin edge of the wedge” way to go California!!!!

  8. Nick Simpson November 8, 2007 at 9:44 am

    It’s a great move for California and not the stupidest move either. They’ll be four years behind us so can watch and see which technologies and systems hit the mark and adopt them. Hopefully more states and countries will do the same, I’m sure the big push will be a lot easier if everyone’s doing the necessary research, trials etc…

  9. aaron loyd November 7, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    Bravo! Now if all the US could grow some balls. I have to say I thought Schwarz was a joke, now I say he is a true leader.

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