With a new code cycle around the corner, it’s worth looking into some surprises that await us before the rubber hits the road. The 2022 California Energy Code (Takes effect January 1, 2023) contains several significant changes worth considering as early in the project Lifecyle as possible. Below are four key facts about the 2022 Energy Code to keep in mind when designing and building new residential construction projects.

  • Low-rise and Highrise Multifamily will now be governed by the same chapter.

Projects with 3 stories or less and projects with 4 stories or higher will be included in a new multi-family chapter.  The energy model will classify residential as either single family or multi-family as “non-residential” with special multi-family rule sets.  There will be different requirements between low-rise and high-rise multifamily; for example, solar photovoltaic and HERS testing requirements will have different requirements based on number of stories.

  • PV for buildings with 4 stories or higher.

Yes, that’s right: one major change in the code is the introduction of requiring all buildings to include photovoltaic panels to generate electricity, as well as PV battery systems to store energy onsite. But do not worry: the upgrade comes with its own ways of making the implementation feasible, especially considering that taller buildings have less roof area to meet the demands of all spaces. For instance, it will enable new ways in which solar and battery systems could be shared across communities, instead of requiring all buildings to meet the requirements individually. Additionally, some exceptions will still be allowed considering how challenging some scenarios can be, and the PV systems can be directed anywhere on the project once construction is complete. This will be especially beneficial for mixed-use buildings, or projects featuring separate amenity buildings, helping to offset operational costs and see a significant ROI faster than usual.

  • Changes to prescriptive glazing values.

Something new in this code cycle will be the variation of prescriptive glazing values depending on the climate zone where buildings will be located. This change was implemented to accommodate the contrasting impacts between cooling dominated climates and heating dominated ones more properly. In the case of cooling dominated climates, the efforts are centered in preventing heat from coming into the buildings, which can be accomplished by having low values for both the U-factor and the SHGC. Conversely, in heating dominated climates, the effort is centered in preventing the heat from escaping the buildings while allowing the solar radiation to come in during winter periods to heat up the space, which can be accomplished by having low U-factors with higher SHGC values.

  • Prescriptive Requirement for Energy or Heat Recovery Ventilator (ERV or HRV)

In addition to the aforementioned updates, there is also a new requirement to have an ERV or HRV system serving each dwelling unit in multifamily projects, with the requirement of having a heat recovery efficiency of 67%, and a fan efficacy ≤ 0.6 w/cfm when the systems are unitary (systems serving a single dwelling unit). For central systems (those serving more than one dwelling unit), the efficiencies required are the same except for the fan efficacy, which would be determined in Section 140.4 of the Energy Code. Last but not least, it is important to point out that this measure will apply solely to Climate Zones 1-2 and 11-16 when balanced ventilation is used.

As this occurs every triennial code cycle, the implementation date of these new components will be January 1st, 2023. Every code cycle makes these requirements more difficult to comply with, and VCA Green’s team of Certified Energy Analysts (CEA) are well-prepared to assist multifamily developers with their current and future energy consultation needs. For more information, contact Moe Fakih below.

Contributing Writer: Alejandro Gamas, Senior Energy Modeler

Moe Fakih, Principal