California adopts the country’s first building code that establishes pollution-free electric heat pumps as the core technology; leads the transition from fossil fuels in new homes

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SACRAMENTO – The California Energy Commission voted today to approve the country’s first building code to include high-efficiency electric heat pumps as core technology – the state of California’s latest step in making the transition of new homes and buildings from fossil fuels like gas in favor of electrical devices that can run on 100% clean energy.

Once the code goes into effect in January 2023, most new homes and buildings in the state will either need to be fitted with at least one high-efficiency heat pump for space heating or water heating. , or face higher energy efficiency requirements – a decision that offers considerable benefits for the climate and air quality. The new code also sets stricter ventilation standards for gas ranges, after the California Air Resources Board found last year that they pose a major health risk.

Experts believe that the electrical appliance requirements in the code will cause a significant number of builders to forgo gas altogether in new construction, which should result in most homes built after January 1, 2023 being gas-free. Many builders across the state are already choosing to build gas-free for economic reasons only – a trend the code will accelerate.

“At National Core, we are already choosing to build affordable, fully electric, pollution-free housing because we have found it to be the best economic decision for us, both in terms of construction costs and operating costs. in the long term, ”said Tim Kohut, Director of Sustainable Design at National Community Renaissance (National CORE), the fourth largest developer of affordable housing in the country. “We expect that the new California building code will encourage other builders and developers of affordable housing to follow the same path, resulting in substantial savings. “

By increasing the use of heat pumps – which provide both heating and cooling while using between 50 and 70% less energy compared to other technologies – advocates also claim that the code will also increase resilience to climate-induced heat waves, while reducing the strain on the network from inefficient air conditioning systems.

The code’s approval follows the publication of the California Energy Commission Building Decarbonization Assessment, which found that electrification of new and existing buildings must play a critical role in the most affordable path to achieve our climate goals.

“A shift to fully electric buildings will allow California to increase its dependence on clean electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources,” said Anne Perkins, Senior Manager of State and Local Government Relations at Adobe, which recently opened the first all-electric office tower in Silicon Valley. “We hope other businesses and industries take the lead in tackling the climate crisis by shifting the state toward fully electric buildings and building a net zero emissions future.”

The following experts have issued statements in response to the proposed code:

“At National Core, we are already choosing to build affordable, fully electric, pollution-free housing because we have found it to be the best economic decision for us, both in terms of construction costs and operating costs. long-term. We expect the new California building code will encourage other builders and developers of affordable housing to follow the same path, resulting in substantial savings.
Tim Kohut, Director of Sustainable Design, National Community Renaissance (National CORE), the 4th largest affordable housing developer in the country

“Efficient electric heat pumps are a common sense solution to reducing climate and air pollution from our buildings and ensuring the comfort of residents all year round. We celebrate the passage of the updated building code, while calling on California policymakers to continue to phase out fossil gas in the building industry and invest in an all-electric future.
Denise Grab, head of the Carbon Free Buildings team at RMI

“Gas appliances are a major source of air pollution in homes, and children with growing lungs are particularly vulnerable to health effects. We don’t need to live with an increased risk of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. It’s time to transition all California homes to healthier electrical appliances, and the California Building Code is a step in the right direction.
Christine James, MD, MSc, Member, Climate Health Now

“The UN’s devastating climate report this week underscores how important the stakes are to Californians. We are in the crosshairs of the climate crisis. California’s new building code sets a striking precedent and takes us in the right direction by prioritizing electrical appliances over gas, but this is a first step. Then we need to do it all: The state should make substantial public investments to quickly transition existing buildings off gas, so all Californians enjoy healthy, fully electric homes. “
Matt Vespa, Lead Lawyer for Earthjustice’s Right to Zero Campaign

“California’s building code is an important step in the transition to pollution-free homes and buildings. Building fully electric homes that can run on 100% clean energy is more affordable, improves air quality in homes, and lowers construction costs – this should be the norm across the state. We look forward to making clean tech more accessible to Californians, which will protect them from the extreme heat, doing more to prioritize the most vulnerable communities in this process and emphasizing fairness in this transition. . “
Jose Torres, California Director, Building Decarbonization Coalition

“The latest report from international climatologists makes it clear that we must immediately stop building new infrastructure for fossil fuels. The California Building Code provides the world with a blueprint for how to build homes and other buildings that can be powered by renewable energy while saving on construction and energy costs.
Pierre Delforge, Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council

“The Sierra Club applauds the CEC’s adoption of the 2022 Title 24 Energy Code. The California Building Code 2022 will create strong incentives for new all-electric construction that will protect the health of the people who live and work in those buildings, reduce the time and costs it takes to create and operate a new building, and bring the California to meet its climate goals. This policy is quite simply revolutionary; it creates and validates a compelling building electrification model that states across the country can adopt when looking for ways to meet the needs of the new clean and green economy. Just like California, so is the nation – I think we’re going to see a lot of all-electric buildings soon. “
Matthew Gough, Senior Campaign Representative, My Generation Sierra Club Campaign

To schedule interviews with advocates in the building, climate, health and environment sectors, contact Chloe Zilliac at 650.644.8259 or [email protected] or Daniela Arellano at 310.434.2304 or [email protected] .

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Shawn Beecher

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