Sustainable housing comes in all shapes and sizes, and by 2020 California hopes that all of its new housing projects will benefit from net-zero energy consumption. But what exactly makes a home sustainable? Sustainability practices include materials, passive heating and cooling systems, energy harvesting, recycling, construction techniques and many other systems and technologies that are being developed everyday.
With so much continual innovation, California’s goal of making all new housing so energy efficient that it consumes no energy at all is foreseeable. While many agree that this, in fact, is the most responsible and intelligent approach to our increased energy consumption, developers and builders are divided over the potential financial hurdles that crop up from such a goal.
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The groups responsible for establishing this goal are California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission who derive the authority to prepare such a goal under the Global Warming Solutions Act, better known as AB32, which requires that the state reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Jeanne Clinton, writer of the plan and branch manager of the energy division at the PUC, said that it is important to make the goals known to the marketplace to make sure that everyone is doing their part. Panama Bartholomy, deputy director for efficiency and renewable energy for the Energy Commission, remarks that this strategy for making home-builders and home-owners individually responsible is more economic than building new infrastructure to accommodate our growing energy needs.
Approaching that goal will require cooperation between various agencies that may require federal and state mandates, incentives, subsidies and agency-funded research. Currently, the California Energy Commission comes out with a new set of standards every three years, so presumably by 2020 it will have determined a mandate for net-zero energy. Over the course of the next nine years, builders and buyers will be able to transition into the new requirements and upfront expenses.
Builders are also hopeful that by 2020, prices of homes will have gone down enough to cover the initial additional expenses of building energy-efficient homes, which contractors estimate is an additional $25,000 – $50,000. With this in mind, although retrofitting already built homes will be difficult, new homes stand a chance in meeting future energy guidelines that promise to produce technologically and aesthetically innovative architecture by 2020.
(Via North County Times)