Santa Monica votes in world's first zero net energy building requirement

Oct. 30, 2016

The Santa Monica City Council voted this week to approve an ordinance requiring all new single-family construction in the city to be zero-net energy (ZNE), the first of its kind in the world.

Zero-net energy is a building industry term for projects that generate enough of their own energy from renewable sources to equal what they take from the power utility over the course of a year. 

"Santa Monica is proud to take a global lead in zero net energy building standards that put the state's environmental policy to action. Council's adoption of this new ordinance reflects our city's continued commitment to the environment," Mayor Tony Vazquez said in a release. "ZNE construction, considered the gold standard for green buildings, is a major component that will help us reach our ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2050."

The ordinance now goes to the California Energy Commission (CEC) for approval and continues the city's long history of adopting local requirements, and providing resources to the community, that take a global lead in advancing the transition to high performance, green buildings for all.

There are various definitions for ZNE buildings but Santa Monica is adopting the definition used in the 2016 California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen). According to CALGreen, a ZNE building is one where the value of energy produced on-site by renewable energy resources is equal to the value of the energy consumed annually by the building.

In 2008, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted California's first Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, which presented a roadmap for all California buildings to be ZNE. The roadmap committed California to requiring all new residential construction achieve ZNE by 2020 and all new commercial construction achieve ZNE by 2030.

With this new ZNE ordinance, Santa Monica is the first city in California to adopt a ZNE ordinance, leading the state to ensure new construction meets the most energy-efficient, cost-effective standards in the industry.

Santa Monica staff collaborated with Southern California Edison (SCE) and their consultant, TRC Energy Services (TRC) to analyze the cost-effectiveness of locally adopted standards that meet the CALGreen ZNE requirements.

The timing of the ordinance capitalizes on state momentum towards ZNE and market trends in the solar industry. With the cost of solar installation continuing to decrease (according to the California Solar Initiative, the Solar Energy Industries Association and observed recent installations in Santa Monica), Santa Monica residents and developers can combine cost-effective energy efficient design with affordable renewable energy to build ZNE homes. The new homes will contribute to the city's robust long-range goals for energy and climate mitigation, including releasing zero carbon by 2050.

In addition to ZNE for single family homes, the Santa Monica ordinance also requires non-residential construction be designed to use 10 percent less energy than required by the 2016 California Energy Code.

The update to the Santa Monica Municipal Green Building Ordinance states:

  • SINGLE FAMILY/DUPLEXES/LOW-RISE MULTI-FAMILY DWELLINGS shall be designed to use 15 percent less energy than the allowed energy budget established by the 2016 California Energy Code, and achieve and Energy Design Rating of Zero.
  • HIGH-RISE MULTI-FAMILY DWELLINGS and NON-RESIDENTIAL, HOTEL, MOTEL shall be designed to use 10 percent less energy than the allowed energy budget established by the 2016 California Energy Code.

 


Topics: Architectural Firms, Associations / Organizations, Building Owners and Managers, Certifications, Construction Firms, Hospitality, Multifamily / Multiunit Residential, Office Buildings, Sustainable Communities, Urban Planning and Design


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