Building Codes for a Net Zero Future

Building Codes for a Net Zero Future

By Noelle Ticman

2020 will be a monumental year for the state of California — and no, we aren’t referring to the elections!

We’re talking about net zero energy buildings: buildings that produce as much onsite renewable energy as they consume, helping to reduce dependency on the grid and the “dirty” fossil fuels that power it.

Beginning January 1, 2020, 100 percent of all new residential projects in California must be designed to achieve Net Zero Energy. The energy code identifies “residential” projects as single and multifamily buildings between one to three stories high. By 2030, the same will be required of all new commercial buildings.

For many of us who are concerned with sustainability, this code has been long awaited. In 2008, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted an energy efficiency framework refocusing on energy efficiency programs to achieve long-term savings through structural changes. Long-term, strategic planning was required to achieve California’s highly ambitious greenhouse gas reduction and energy efficiency goals through 2020 and beyond.

Thus, the Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan (Plan) was born. The Plan is a roadmap derived from a collaborative effort by CPUC’s regulated utilities: Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison Company (SCE), San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E), and Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas).

The Plan includes four “Big Bold Strategies” serving as the foundation for energy savings:

  1. All new residential construction will be Zero Net Energy by 2020
  2. All new commercial will be net zero by 2030
  3. The Heating, Venting, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) industry will be re-shaped to deliver maximum performance HVAC systems
  4. All eligible low-income customers will have an opportunity to participate in the LIEE program and will be provided all cost-effective energy efficiency measures in their residences by 2020

The Road to Implementation

The path to Net Zero Energy came fast, but it wasn’t an easy one! For this Plan to be successful, it must be supported by multiple market stakeholders; serve as a guide for state agencies, local government, and the utilities; and, lastly, motivate industry.

Since 2014, key stakeholders conducted surveys, workshops, and community engagement to better understand the market, identify gaps and opportunities, and refine goals and metrics for local governments.

What does this mean for you?

We know it’s challenging to find wiggle room in a construction budget. With new codes imminently approaching, the need for support and education is greater than ever. Verdical Group’s Net Zero Conference was created to support industry, policymakers, and educators as they move toward a net zero future. This year’s event, which will take place from October 2 – 4 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, is a great place to start: A hub for thought-leaders and industry-shapers in the carbon, energy, water, waste, and transit sectors, the conference will bring 1,200+ green building pioneers from around the world to Southern California to inspire, educate, and evolve our built environment.

The three-day event will feature exciting keynotes from ILFI CEO Amanda Sturgeon and Architecture 2030 CEO & Founder Ed Mazria, panels and workshops from sustainability thought leaders, Los Angeles-area green building tours, premium networking opportunities, the exclusive Robin Hood Gala to raise awareness around homelessness, and an expo hall featuring 100+ exhibitors. Register here before July 15 to receive the Early Bird discount!

If you’re further along in the process and are looking for support in achieving Net Zero Energy for your project, we invite you to reach out to us and learn more about Verdical Group’s Net Zero services, which include everything from Feasibility Assessments to Net Zero Energy Modeling and Net Zero Project Management. Contact us at to get started.