Sustainable development projects are a growing trend across the United States and California is a trend setter! Sustainability is critical for environmental needs and has also become an integral approach to separate the best from the rest, or in other words, a differentiator for developers and designers.
This is the fifth instalment in our ongoing series on energy planning. If you’re just joining us now, you may find the rest of the series of use as well.
How can you achieve the level of sustainable best practices in California? What are the basic actions you should undertake so your projects are top level in terms of sustainability? How can you make sure that your projects start off on the right track?
The answers to these questions rest on following the three practices listed below.
Understand California’s energy regulations
The first task for you is to know the energy regulations applicable in different zones, and if you don’t know where to start, do not hesitate to seek expert advice. An investment at this stage will return itself many times over in future. California’s energy code is complex while allowing developers ample opportunities to create innovative and sustainable projects. This is only possible if you know what to do at every stage of the project, and this is where expert advice is critical.
Be aware that the 2016 standards or Title 24 (as it is also known) are divided into three sets. The first one is a set of mandatory requirements, or a floor of standards to be used in all buildings across the state. A second set contains a series of prescriptive packages that can be taken as a checklist to be met. The third set contains performance standards that change according to a 16-climate zone division and the type of building. This set gives builders complete freedom in their designs, as long as the building achieves the overall efficiency of a similar building using the prescriptive package.
Define your development vision
Your second task is to clearly define your sustainable development vision. Whom do you really want to sell to? What type of proposal is adequate for a certain demographic? Have you thoroughly studied the market? What features should your development have?
The reason why Sustainability is called the Triple Bottom Line (Economic, Environmental and Social) is that all of them are equally important goals. So, a sustainable project for a house or a building is one that makes economic sense both for the developer and the final buyer, minimizes the impact on the environment, and harmonizes with local culture, urban design and people desires. The same happens with California Energy Standards. They focus on the amount of resources that can be saved over a long period of time, under full compliance. Keep in mind then that sustainability is about saving and using less over a lifetime.
Partner with the experts
Your third task in trying to achieve best-practice level, is to partner with an energy consultant who can oversee energy requirements for your portfolio. Energy consultants can do many expert things that your project needs. First among them is the capability to navigate through federal, state and local regulations, as well as submitting innovative and cost-effective proposals. Also, energy consultants are experts in specific areas like HVAC, sealing the building envelope or running energy balance simulations. Of course, a good energy consultant should be able to help you identify and overcome regulatory hurdles and key points throughout your development roadmap. Finally, energy consultants can be integral advisers, from design to project completion, and even for the operational stage.
Best practices are being achieved every day, so we need to know what that level it entails. At the same time, they are increasingly better, so the more you wait to start pursuing them, the harder they become to achieve.