REACH beyond Title 24 for electric new buildings

REACH beyond Title 24 for electric new buildings

By Bruce Naegel December 2018

Cities implement REACH codes (local building ordinances) for stricter environmental standards than the standard building code (Title 24 Section 6) (1). For example, cities write REACH codes for lighting, PV solar and energy efficiency.  Then, cities release REACH codes as part of the Title 24 release. The latest Title 24 is the 2016. Title 24 is on a 3 year cycle. Thus, the next version is the 2019 version, releasing on January 1, 2020.

What do we REACH For?

Namely, we REACH for standards to stop burning fossil fuels (e.g. Natural Gas) to heat our new buildings. The Bay Area is blessed with electricity that is near or completely carbon free. (2) (3)   Therefore, we need to heat our buildings s with this carbon free electric energy.

Why do we need a new REACH code now?

First, Title 24 versions release every 3 years. Second, REACH codes tie to the relevant Title 24 version. Next, there is a March-April deadline for REACH code first draft and an August -September deadline for the final draft. Then, Title 24 and the associated REACH code   completes in 2019 and goes into effect January 1 of 2020.

Currently, construction of new multi-family residences is booming in the Bay Area. So, we need Title 24 REACH code updates for the 2019 code revision. Every year, more buildings go up. As a result, these newly constructed buildings will contribute GHGs for the next 30 to 50 years if they burn gas.

Why is an all-electric REACH Code important?

All Electric REACH codes means buildings run on carbon free electricity. With carbon free energy one gets carbon free operation.  Buildings in California are heated mainly by gas (4). Heating buildings generates 20 to 30% of the GHG in California.  It is the second largest fossil fuel GHG contributor after transportation. Thus, with the latest technology, we can make new construction cost effective and GHG free.

Which Bay Area Jurisdictions have 2016 REACH Codes ?

  • Alameda County
  • Brisbane
  • Fremont
  • Marin County
  • Mill Valley
  • Novato
  • Palo Alto
  • Portola Valley
  • San Francisco,
  • City of San Mateo.

Who is working on 2019 REACH codes?

  • First, the city of Arcata submitted their proposal for a REACH code on adding PV and enhanced energy efficiency standards (1).
  • Next, Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE) and Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) are working on REACH codes. They are looking at an example / template for cities in their jurisdiction. (5) (6)
  • Further, BayREN is also working on a model REACH code for multi-family housing. Land is limited, so many new residential structures will be multi family. (7)
  • In addition, Sunnyvale and Mountain View are looking into a REACH code for all Electric Construction for Multi Family buildings

Is a REACH code for an all-electric building cost effective?

The answer in many cases is yes.  In a mixed (gas / electric) building, the gas hookup costs about $6,000 per housing unit.  The expense for extra wiring and upgraded appliances is less than the $6.000 saved.

Gas costs less per unit of energy than electricity. How is using electricity for heating cost effective?

It is because, Heat Pump technology delivers more heat per unit of energy than gas can. For example, specific heat pump water heaters deliver over five times the heat per unit of energy than a gas tank water heater can. If the cost differential (electricity to gas) is 5:1 or less, one gets more heat delivery per dollar with electric heat pumps.

Heat Pump Space Heater
This all electric heat source makes the all-electric house possible


What other benefits come from this REACH code?

  • Safety by eliminating fire danger from Natural Gas.
  • Provides a level playing field with the rules for developers should lead to more competition between builders
  • Provides the safest cooktop with Induction stoves. They also are the best way to cook, according to top chefs.

How will the REACH Code be enforced?

There will likely be a mix of “carrot and stick” provisos. One “carrot” that has gained interest is the one where a developer gets added building space allowed if they follow the code. There could be restrictions on certain classes of buildings requiring certain levels of compliance.

Who should one contact if interested in understanding more about REACH Codes?

If you are in San Mateo County, go to the PCE (Peninsula Clean Energy) web site. (2)

Otherwise contact BayREN, see listing below (7)

The REACH Code Electric Building Future

We are in a building boom in many Bay Area communities. So, this means opportunity to make new buildings carbon free.  The opportunity is now.   A REACH code for electrifying buildings that is widely deployed means new building stock with no added carbon. We have the opportunity and the means.
So, Onward!