Today’s architects in California are not only challenged to create spaces that satisfy clients’ needs, but are also increasingly being asked to incorporate yet another consideration into their design projects: energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency planning is a completely foreign concept and process to architects in the Golden State. Typically, it is only when they are going through the requirements of an RFP, or applying for a building permit, that they realize they need to comply with rising mandates for building energy efficiency.
As a result, we are often called by project managers and architects who are panicked – and sometimes even hostile- because they didn’t know they needed to engage an Energy Planning Consultant in their projects. They generally see us as a large, last minute and totally unaccounted for cost and/or burden.
We suddenly become this new factor that goes into their budget that they had no clue of, or cost out before.
Energy efficiency codes and architectural design
There are a number of regulations set by the state of California with which every building must be in compliance. One such regulation is Title 24, Section 6, of the California Energy Code, also known as The Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential and Non-Residential Buildings.
Compliance with these regulations helps ensure that California buildings are energy efficient in order to conserve energy, reduce energy bill costs, increase the reliability of the energy supply, lessen the environmental impact, and increase the comfort level of the building’s occupants.
Meeting energy regulations represents an additional challenge for architects, as every three years the energy code is made more stringent as California strives toward its zero net energy goals. At times, a building project must be certified by a third party as compliant with these standards before receiving its Certificate of Occupancy.
That’s why it is paramount for architects across California to engage a local energy efficiency consulting firm early on in the process to handle the varied and complex issues associated with building energy codes.
Why having an energy planning consultant will save you money
Building Departments are required to enforce California’s Title 24 Building Energy Standards. As part of the permit process for new buildings and additions, calculations must be submitted showing that the proposed structure meets a minimum level of energy efficiency.
As mentioned above, most architects are unfamiliar with the process, and the language contained in the energy code is new to them. They don’t truly understand how it can affect their projects.
Energy planning consultants, on the other hand, are fluent in this language. They distill the ‘Acronym Soup’ of the sustainability world into plain English and help you reach your goals, on time and within budget. An experienced consultant will ensure your project meets sustainability and energy efficiency standards by evaluating a set of building assemblies and mechanical systems to meet the projects goals.
When included in the early design phase, these improvements are often considerably less expensive and may even reduce construction costs. Efficient solutions such as increased insulation can lead to a reduction in the size of the heating and cooling system needed, or an increase in daylighting measures to reduce task lighting usage are often cost effective.
These same energy efficiency improvements, when made late or during a building’s construction, could be costly and/or involve irreparable damage to its budget.
The problem is, however, that architects tend to engage the energy consultant way too late into the process, and as a result, they may end having to change design plans, impacting their budget tremendously.