Compliance with California’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards is challenging in a constantly-evolving regulatory landscape. In addition to major revisions of the standards every three years, compliance credits are constantly scrutinized and modified at the State level. On top of that, local jurisdictions are increasingly enacting reach codes with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (electrification). While these reach codes are all designed to reward the use of electricity over natural gas, the differences in how they achieve that are subtle but not insignificant. ConSol can support developers and their energy consultants in developing cost-effective ways to meet both statewide standards and local reach codes by exploring the cost effectiveness of market-accepted and emerging energy efficiency, renewable, and storage measures.
The building energy modeling carried out by compliance software uses broad assumptions about buildings to allow for a straightforward, like-for-like comparison between buildings. But these assumptions can be overtaken by new building practices and technologies. Examples include pre-cooling buildings to maximize AC efficiency, using tanked water heaters for thermal energy storage, using air gaps to reduce heat transfer into attics, and changing air leakage characteristics through novel sealing techniques. Changes to these assumptions are often locked out of the compliance software, even though the software engine is capable of modeling and accounting for their effects. ConSol’s deep understanding of the software allows us to work with builders and manufacturers to determine whether the benefits of different practices are being properly captured, and, if not, how to ensure that they can be fully credited in the future.
The life cycle of a typical housing product development is longer than the three-year energy code cycle, so plans being drawn up today will likely be impacted by both the current energy code and the next version which becomes effective January 1st, 2023. ConSol is already working on analyzing how the expected changes to the standards will affect building compliance. Understanding this will allow developers to avoid having to make significant modifications to building designs in the middle of a project. Among the expected changes will be:
- New Time Dependent Values for energy, which will change the effectiveness of different efficiency measures, as well as changing the benefit of electricity compared to gas as a fuel source
- Updated weather data requiring the modeling to use the warmer weather data from the past twenty years, which will change the balance of heating and cooling energy use. The impact of the new data will be most significant in milder climate zones
Another modeling service offered is “What-if” analyses. ConSol’s years of experience digging into both the modeling assumptions and the building science behind the compliance software allows us to provide answers to a variety of questions such as:
- How will the new code affect design for Zero Net Energy and all-electric buildings?
- How will modeled carbon emissions change?
- How effective is higher-efficiency equipment compared to larger PV systems?
- How much energy and consumer dollars can be saved using various utility rates, such as time-of-use?
- Does using new, warmer weather data instead of historic weather data change which efficiency measures are most effective?
Most energy consultants can model an existing building design and verify compliance with the current code. ConSol takes energy modeling and analysis to the next level in order to answer critical questions and provide actionable insights for forward-looking developers, builders, and manufacturers.