Proposed 2022 Green Building and Local Energy Code Update

Reach Codes

Introduction

Palo Alto staff have begun the process of updating the City’s green building regulations and energy reach code with a target effective date of January 1, 2023. The proposed regulations aim to increase water conservation and reduce water loss, lower embodied carbon in new construction projects, reduce fossil fuel use in buildings, and facilitate electric vehicle adoption by community members and visitors to Palo Alto. These goals are consistent with Palo Alto’s sustainability goals, including the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Below are the proposed new requirements that staff is proposing for City Council consideration:

  1. Require covers for all new pools and spas (no exceptions for solar-heated pools)
  2. Require newly constructed cooling towers to achieve the maximum number of cycles to optimize process water use
  3. Adopt low-carbon concrete standards for all new construction projects
  4. Require new detached Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) to be all-electric
  5. Require all new, non-residential construction to be all-electric
  6. Require heat pump water heater when an existing water heater is replaced as part of a residential addition and/or alteration project
  7. Prohibit new gas infrastructure for outdoor equipment such as pools, spas, and BBQ grills
  8. Expand EV charging infrastructure requirements for new construction projects above the State minimum requirements
  9. Adopt a "Substantial Remodel" definition to clarify when a construction project is considered "new construction"

Review this summary document(PDF, 149KB) that outlines the existing green building and energy reach codes that the City plans to carry forward, the proposed new requirements, as well as measures that were considered but not proposed for the coming code cycle.

Background

Every three years, the State of California adopts new building standards that are codified in Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations, referred to as the California Building Standards Code. While the State sets the minimum building standards, local jurisdictions can enact more stringent local building standards based on unique local climatic, geologic, and topographic conditions. 

The goal of Palo Alto’s Green Building Ordinance and Energy Reach Code is to design, build, and operate a new generation of efficient, environmentally responsible, and healthy buildings. These local ordinances establish standards that exceed the state’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards and Green Building Standards, which in turn cover the areas of water efficiency, material conservation, resource efficiency, indoor air quality, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The Palo Alto Green Building Ordinance applies to new construction projects as well as additions and alterations projects. 

Timeline and Community Engagement

  • Milestone 1

    03/2022 - 05/2022

    Develop Green Building and Local Energy Reach Code Proposals

  • Milestone 2

    06/2022 - 08/2022

    Public Engagement Meetings

  • Milestone 3

    17/10/2022

    Council first reading on proposed amendments to the 2022 Building Codes

  • Milestone 4

    14/11/2022

    Council 2nd reading and adoption of proposed amendments to the 2022 Building Codes

  • Final Milestone

    01/01/2023

    Target Effective Date

Palo Alto is engaging the community and stakeholders for input on the proposed regulations. The City is hosting two community meetings this summer to present the proposed Reach Codes that will go before the City Council for approval in the fall.

You can also provide feedback on the proposed regulations by emailing your questions or comments to Greenbuilding@cityofpaloalto.org.

History

Palo Alto was one of the first in the nation to adopt a Climate Protection Plan in 2007. In 2016, Palo Alto City Council committed to an ambitious a goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% of its 1990 levels by 2030. The City has long used green building and energy reach regulations as a strategy for achieving its climate action and sustainability goals. The City adopted its first set of Green Building Ordinance and Energy Reach Code in 2008 and has since adopted expanded versions every three years during the Building Code adoption process.

Palo Alto has been a pioneer in adopting innovative green building and building energy efficiency mandates. Below are a few examples:

  • EV-readiness for all new detached single-family homes since 2013
  • EV-readiness for all residential units in new multifamily buildings since 2014
  • Dual plumbing for potable and recycle water systems for toilet and urinal flushing in certain non-residential buildings since 2015
  • Increased energy efficiency standards for mixed-fueled new construction projects above the State’s building energy efficiency standards (Title 24)

For the 2020-2022 building code cycle, City Council adopted an all-electric mandate for new low-rise residential buildings, with an exemption for detached ADUs. Mixed-fuel nonresidential new construction projects were required to exceed the State’s building efficiency standards by 5-12%, and also pre-wired for future electrification. 

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