A construction worker
A construction worker. Photo via Pixabay

County supervisors unanimously approved an updated set of building codes Wednesday, including those pertaining to new housing projects, in line with recent state changes.

The building codes ordinance will take effect in 30 days, according to the county Land Use & Environment Group. The board gave preliminary approval on Jan. 25 to the updated codes for building, residential, electrical, energy efficiency, green building, mechanical and plumbing.

Every three years, the state of California replaces its existing building codes with an updated version that took effect Jan. 1, and which local jurisdictions must follow.

The code covers new-home standards, including requiring electric space and/or water heat pumps for multifamily home projects such as apartment buildings and facilities like banks, grocery stores, libraries, offices, retail and schools. Customers may consider pump technology to heat the home or water.

According to the county, electric heat pumps increase efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve indoor air quality and ventilation, and enable energy load flexibility.

The new codes for newly constructed, single-family homes include:

  • compatibility with existing appliances and future electric appliance adoption
  • electrical circuits for space heating, water heating, cooking/ovens and clothes dryers
  • electric-ready standards for battery storage, including all necessary equipment for future installation or during a power outage or limiting grid energy
  • dedicated circuits and panels to easily convert from natural gas to electric appliances in the future
  • new solar and storage requirements for certain non-residential use

According to the county, while updated state policy allows for certain gas appliances, new-home builders can choose full electrification and save an estimated $2,000 to $3,000 per unit.

The 2022 Energy Code extends previous residential solar requirements and introduces battery storage standards for civic auditoriums and convention centers; high-rise multifamily; hotels and motels; tenant space; office, medical office and clinics; retail and grocery stores; restaurants; and schools.

Updated state Green Building Code Standards for electric vehicles are:

  • requirements that encourage electric vehicles through panel capacity and related equipment
  • mandatory EV charging for nonresidential construction, including provisions for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles for grocery, retail and warehouse buildings
  • new multi-family dwelling, hotels and motel projects having EV supply equipment, based on the total number of parking spaces

During a brief public comment period Wednesday, Serena Pelka of Climate Action Campaign urged the county to require all-electric appliances, calling gas unsafe and unaffordable.

Pelka added that while state updates are important, they must be paired with a strong local commitment on green energy.

City News Service contributed to this article.