When discussing energy efficiency, it is critical to remember the reasoning behind a “greener” build. Sustainability is the goal of all buildings, but more importantly, green sustainability eliminates unwanted costs and unnecessary maintenance down the road for future home and building owners, along with improving the effects it has on the public and the environment. The design process can be complicated when general contractors and subcontractors must adapt to the ever-changing climate of energy efficiency in 2021 and beyond. Conditions such as sunlight on a building, heating & cooling loads, and window glazing are all variables that very often get overlooked in the design phase of a project. Very easily can a simple design be made complex and confusing when the introduction of energy efficiency standards is brought into a design process. With the help of a certified California Title 24 consultant, along with a green building oriented design team, any and all questions regarding code, implementation, and execution of these energy requirements will be answered and discussed with all responsible parties.

A simple yet extremely effective way to improve energy measures during a project would be the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) design review process completed during the design phase. During this stage, a certified HERS professional reviews all construction documents relating to the energy design and creates a report to first help identify all required Title 24 tests that are mandatory by the State of California, as well as any areas of concern during the construction phases. Concerns such as equipment sizing (as it relates to the designed HVAC system to be installed), duct sizing, insulation requirements for optimal performance, building envelope concerns, and lastly how the final testing can be simplified.

One test that is crucial to the overarching goal of net zero efficacy is duct leakage testing. With the proper gear, a certified HERS rater pressurizes the ducting system of a building to determine if there is any leakage among the ductwork installed that is not reaching the conditioned space it was designated for. Any air supply, whether cooled or heated, not being introduced properly leads to many problems both for the tenant and building owner. Simply put, leaky ducts lead to the installed system having to work harder and, as a result, less efficiently. This subsequently leads to higher utility and maintenance costs during the lifespan of an installed system. With so many moving parts that are involved with mechanical systems, it is easy to miss the proper design and sealing process that goes along with making a system efficient. This is where the sustainability consultant steps in to assist builders with a smooth design, construction, and turnover phase of a project build.

In all honesty, a building can be built using old designs and tendencies, but what sets a project build apart from others performing in similar conditions is energy efficiency and sustainability. With the year being 2021, every buyer is looking for that edge with their high cost investments and potential cash returns from changing those old designs and tendencies. Green building consulting is one of the many ways building owners and general contractors can provide that edge by incorporating a whole building energy model to help decrease the time within the plan review process with the City or governing agency by 80%-90% relating to the required Energy Code. In addition, when choosing the right energy consulting firm, it is important to choose the most experienced firm that understands your deadlines and expectations. Keep in mind that an experienced energy efficiency professional can provide the best return on investment with the benefits you provide to the future tenants and owner. You can also improve first costs by $200k-$750k by incorporating a consultant with Energy Code expertise. General contractors along with building owners must keep in mind the long term costs and effects of a poor energy design along with poor execution of the energy design proposed.

Everyone can benefit from a green sustainable build for years to come, and addressing these expensive pitfalls during the design phase can save owners, designers, and contractors from unnecessary costs and work. For more information on how to make the most of your building’s energy efficiency, contact Moe Fakih below.

Contributing Writer: Kevin Perez, HERS Rater

Moe Fakih, Principal