Regulation has become a suspect word in the minds of many. But that's not the case with the historic new building efficiency standards approved unanimously by the California Energy Commission on Thursday.
The standards have been greeted with universal approval and appropriately so. The building industry, environmentalists and utility firms helped fashion the new rules and enthusiastically embrace them.
The new standards for residential construction are 25 percent more efficient than the ones they replace and 30 percent more efficient for commercial construction.
Under them, beginning in 2014, home builders will be required to fit new houses with solar-ready roofs, more efficient windows, insulated hot water pipes and whole-house fans, among other common- sense improvements.
Nonresidential buildings will also have to have solar-ready roofs under the standards, employ cool-roof technologies and install high-performance windows that maximize the use of "daylighting." The new efficiency rules will add $2,290 to the cost of the average new home, adding $11 a month to a conventional 30-year mortgage but saving homeowners $27 on monthly heating, cooling and lighting bills for a net monthly gain of $16.
According to the Energy Commission, overall, the new standards for both residential and nonresidential buildings translate to 25 percent less energy use for lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation and water heating than the 2008 standards they replace and the avoidance of an additional 155,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
All in all, not a bad day for California regulators, for the environment and for consumers.