CALL: 1 (416) 586 3649


News and Insights

California sets the pace with tough new energy conservation standards

California sets the pace with tough new energy conservation standards

California continues to play a leadership role in energy conservation in North America. As of July 1, strict new energy standards came into force in the form of changes to the state’s building code, Title 24 Energy Efficiency Standards. The goal is to improve energy efficiency in all residential and commercial buildings by 25 per cent and 30 per cent respectively, relative to energy standards set in 2008. According to California Energy Commission estimates, the changes to non-residential standards, which also include HVAC and water heating, will save 372 GWh/year.

Some of the most significant changes to the code have to do with lighting standards. One of these changes is the extended requirement for use of adaptive lighting; lighting that shuts itself on and off, or dims, as needed. Another new requirement is that indoor lighting in most non-residential buildings must have manual shut-off and dimmer switches so that lights in any room or area of a building can be turned off when not in use. Integrated occupancy sensing: daylight harvesting; demand response; continuous dimming; these are the new normal lighting requirements in California. In retrofit projects, most buildings now will have to meet the same standards for lighting as new-construction buildings.*


Among the new indoor lighting requirements are quality standards for LED luminaires intended for general indoor lighting. In order to qualify as “high efficacy,” LED luminaires must provide a CRI of at least 90, and a CCT of 2700–4000K. There are additional criteria for defining high-efficacy lighting, including lumen output per watt. Lighting fixtures that can accept low-efficacy lamps do not qualify as high efficacy.

All new-built bathrooms, for example, will now require at least one high-efficacy luminaire, while other bathroom lighting must be either high efficacy or adaptive, i.e., controlled by vacancy sensors. Kitchens, similarly, will require at least 50 per cent of permanently installed lighting to be high efficacy, and there are wattage limitations for lighting inside cabinets and under shelves.

All of these changes to California’s building code, including the water conservation measures, are expected to add $2,000 on average to the cost of a new home, while saving the homeowner an estimated $6,000 over thirty years. A document containing a concise summary of these changes also has useful resources for builders and others with an interest in the California energy efficiency standards.

California’s approach to energy efficiency, combining legislation and regulation, has helped to reduce energy consumption across North America by forcing manufacturers to create the higher-efficiency products it mandates. California’s clout derives from its sheer size: the market is huge, with a population about the same as all of Canada’s. As soon as the new code went into effect on July 1, lighting products manufacturers began boasting of their products’ compliance.

It’s difficult to argue with the California approach. “The most effective way to optimize building performance is during construction,” said California’s Energy Commissioner. The state has set a Zero-Net Energy goal for all new residential construction by 2020, and for non-residential construction by 2030.

Are North Americans in other jurisdictions ready for building code changes that mandate the amount of “daylighting zones” in a building? The California code does that: a daylighting zone is defined as an area that is “substantially illuminated by daylight.” Previously, 50 per cent of a building’s floor area had to be in daylighting zones; now it will be 75 per cent (buildings over 5,000 square feet). Installed lighting in these areas must automatically turn off when daylight levels reaches a certain level, even in parking garages.

Perhaps a better question would be: how serious are we about energy efficiency?

*What’s New in the 2013 Code?


The following two tabs change content below.
Stephen Naor

Stephen Naor

President at Leapfrog Lighting
Stephen Naor is the President of Leapfrog Lighting. In 2003, Stephen set out to improve the affordability of energy-efficient lighting and his innovations earned him two patents and an award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Stephen is married, has two kids and a dog, and is an avid photographer.

Leave a reply

Are you human? * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.