California Building Energy Efficient Standards for Residential and Nonresidential Buildings have been moving the needle towards mandatory solar installation. In the 2016 Energy Code cycle, a solar zone needs to be identified on all new construction projects. However, in the 2019 Energy Code cycle, solar panel installation will be mandated. Here are five things that architects and owners should know prior to permit submittal for Section 110.10 – Mandatory Requirements for Solar Ready Buildings.

  1. The solar zone requires all newly constructed buildings to be “solar ready”. This mandate applies to several building occupancy types. Occupancy types include: single family residences; low-rise multi-family buildings (three stories or less); hotel/motel and high-rise multi-family buildings (four stories or higher); and all other nonresidential buildings that include three stories or less of habitable space.
  2. Solar zones need to be identified on your plans. A solar zone is an area most commonly located on the roof that is allocated to have solar panels be placed for future use if so desired by the owner. Single family residences are to have a solar zone of no less than 250 square feet. All other applicable solar ready buildings are to have a solar zone of no less than 15% of the total roof area.
  3. The intent of solar ready buildings is, if the owner chooses to install solar energy in the future, the installation process will be easier and more cost effective as the building is already designed to accommodate the installation. The building is not required to install hardware such as solar panels, conduit or equipment. The future locations of solar equipment and pathways need to be specified on building plans, though.
  4. For all occupancy types, there are exceptions to this rule. If a solar zone cannot be properly designed to specifications, other avenues for compliance can be followed. The most commonly followed exception is to install a thermostat that is capable of sending or receiving demand response signals as well as installing ENERGY STAR appliances. This exception ensures that the home is conserving energy (which meets the intent of the Section 110.10 mandate).
  5. Architects and owners should be aware that, in the year 2020, additional regulations will take effect involving solar energy installation on newly constructed buildings in California. The new standards will state that all new residential construction three stories or less will be required to install solar panels. The size of the system will be designed to offset the homes yearly energy consumption.

VCA Green offers consultation for solar ready buildings and other code compliance services. For more information on how to meet the Section 110.10 mandate, please contact us below.

Moe Fakih, Principal

Contributing Writer: Michael Glincman, LEED Green Associate

Image Source: Wikipedia. Fair Use.