Reach Codes Under Consideration for a Greener Redwood City

Note: This Blog was updated September 15 to include the City Council direction from the September 14, 2020 City Council meeting (see below).

This month, the City Council will consider promoting building electrification as a key strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through adopting “reach” building codes (Reach Codes).

The goal of Reach Codes is to pave the way for cleaner air and less climate pollution so that we can create a healthier and greener Redwood City.

What Are Reach Codes?

In a nutshell, Reach Codes are local rules that “reach” above and beyond state minimum requirements for energy use and green building design in construction. Reach Codes lead to energy efficiency, in addition to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — that’s good for ensuring clean air and long-term climate solutions for us and future generations.

In California, local governments have the authority to adopt local amendments to the California Building Standards Code, commonly known as “Title 24” of the code of regulations. There are two categories of reach codes: prescriptive codes that require one or more specific energy efficiency or renewable energy measure, and performance codes which set standards based upon the building’s actual energy use, rather than on compliance with stipulated technology or design features.

Either way, Reach Codes must:

  • Be at least as stringent as the statewide code;
  • Be cost-effective;
  • Must be approved by the California Energy Commission; and,
  • Be re-approved with each Energy Code update.

Why Are They Needed?

Reach Codes work towards statewide goals of developing zero net energy buildings consistent with the state’s goal of reducing carbon pollution to 1990 levels by 2030. Zero net buildings have zero net energy consumption, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created.

There is also state legislation supporting renewable energy and environmental sustainability, including:

  • Senate Bill 32 (2016) — mandates a 40% reduction in statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030
  • Senate Bill 100 (2018) — mandates 60% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045
  • Government Executive Order B-55–18 (2018) — mandates carbon neutrality by 2045, and achieve and maintain net negative emissions thereafter
  • Assembly Bill 3232 (2019) — mandates a 40% GHG reduction in buildings by 2030
  • Senate Bill 1477 (2019) — Building Initiative for Low Emissions Development (BUILD) program, which incentivizes near-zero emissions technologies in new residential buildings and the Technology and Equipment for Clean Heating (TECH) initiative, which supports low-emission space and water heaters in new and existing residential buildings

In addition, adopting Reach Codes is consistent with the City’s Draft 2030 Climate Action Plan to adopt an all-electric green building policy.

What is Included in Redwood City’s proposed Reach Codes?

Over the past year, staff have been researching and listening to the community while navigating through cost, cost-effectiveness, and energy efficiency considerations. Based on previous City Council input and community outreach, staff is recommending what’s called “all-electric” Reach Codes to reduce GHGs through new building construction requirements.

“All-electric” essentially means that all new buildings may only use electricity as the source of energy for things like space heating, water heating, cooking, and clothes drying, with no natural gas or propane plumbing installed.

This will be the fourth time Reach Codes will be before the Council, most recently being discussed in January 2020. Since then, staff conducted additional community and stakeholder outreach, including meetings with the Redwood City Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Committee, Neighborhood Association Leadership, an Ad Hoc Environmental Initiatives Committee, and conducting an online survey. Overall, there is general support for Reach Codes, but we know one size does not fit all. Read on for staff recommended exceptions.

What are the Exceptions?

Staff recognize that in certain instances the availability of electric appliances is limited, or implementation of all-electric infrastructure may be difficult. Because of this, staff recommends possible exceptions to allow for mixed-fuel buildings in cases where the lack of available equipment or all-electric construction is prohibitive.

Staff recommends 8 exceptions to account for:

  • Hospitals
  • Science labs
  • Restaurants/catering business kitchens
  • Factories and hazardous material facilities
  • Projects that have previously approved land use entitlements
  • Affordable housing projects
  • Accessory Dwelling Units
  • Other instances in which an applicant can submit a specific request for an exception because they feel circumstances exist that make it infeasible for their building to be an all-electric building

To read the full extent of the recommended exceptions, click here to review the Staff Report (Agenda Item 8.A).

There are a few exceptions reviewed, which are not being recommended at this time because staff found there was available and comparable equipment, or that the main purpose of a building would not be impacted by being all-electric.

These include:

  • Allowing residential buildings to contain non-electric fireplaces and cooking appliances
  • Requiring Emergency Centers to be all-electric
  • Allowing high-rise residential buildings to contain non-electric water-heating systems

How Would the Reach Codes go into Effect?

It takes a few steps to adopt Reach Codes. Should the City Council proceed with the staff’s Reach Code recommendation on September 14, it will come back to the City Council for what is called a “second reading” of the ordinance on September 21, 2020. This allows the public a little extra time to express support or concern over the recommendation, and for staff to make any final tweaks to ensure the best fit for Redwood City. If the City Council adopts the Ordinance on September 21, staff will then submit the approved Ordinance to the California Energy Commission (CEC) for approval. This process includes 60 days for public comment prior to issuing CEC approval. After the CEC’s approval, staff will file the Reach Codes with the Building Standards Commission.

September 14 City Council Meeting Update

At the September 14, 2020 City Council meeting, Council discussed the goals of reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions through all-electric building requirements in consideration of other policy goals, including encouraging affordable housing.

The City Council unanimously voted to approve Reach Codes language with staff-recommended exceptions, including a revision to the exception regarding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADUs), amended to state that all-electric building requirements shall not apply to ADUs or JADUs (the part in the original recommended language about having an exception so long as the ADU or JADU is created through the conversion of existing space was eliminated).

Fast Facts

  • Statewide, as the electricity grid gets cleaner, 89% of emissions come from natural gas in homes and fuel in vehicles (transportation emissions: 46% and building gas emissions: 43%)
  • Electricity and natural gas usage in Redwood City buildings accounts for 45% of all GHG within the City
  • Natural gas accounts for approximately 4% of total energy consumption in buildings, but generates approximately 68% of emissions from buildings
  • Electricity accounts for approximately 96% of total energy, but generates just 32% of GHGs from buildings
  • Building electrification is less expensive to construct — Capital Cost of thermal systems (Mixed-fuel home: $23,000 versus All-electric home: $13,000)
  • Retrofit a parking garage for EV charging is 2–5 times more expensive (Retrofit: $3,100 versus New construction: $1,380)
https://localenergycodes.com/content/reach-codes/building-efficiency-renewables

Sources:
City’s GHG Inventory
https://localenergycodes.com/

Join the Conversation

To maximize time for live public comment, we encourage members of the public to provide comments by joining the City Council meeting via Zoom: For web, visit redwoodcity.zoom.us, select “Join” and enter Meeting ID 939 6733 4297. Use the Raise Hand feature to request to speak. You may rename your profile if you wish to remain anonymous. For dial-in comments, call *67 (669) 900–6833 (your phone number will appear on the live broadcast if *67 is not dialed prior to the phone number), enter Meeting 939 6733 4297 and press *9 to request to speak. All public comments are subject to a 3-minute time limit unless otherwise determined by the Mayor.

If you wish to submit written public comment, please send an email to the City Council at council@redwoodcity.org. Please indicate the corresponding agenda item # in the subject line of your email. Any public comment regarding agenda items that are received from the publication of the agenda through the meeting date will be made part of the meeting record, but will not be read during the Council meeting.

Visit www.redwoodcity.org/reachcodes to learn more and review some Frequently Asked Questions.

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