Invariably, those in sustainable development acknowledge the greatest impact in reducing green house gasses (GHGs) will come from improvements to existing buildings. The new commercial building energy performance ordinance that we recently spent a great deal of time covering is an example of that focus.  That is not to say that intelligent new building codes are ineffective. It’s just that refurbishing the existing building stock will have a far greater impact. Just how drastic is the difference in impact, you ask? How about seven times greater for residential retrofits and two times greater for commercial?!

Just think of it from this starting point: “72% of California’s 13 million residential buildings and over 5 billion square feet of commercial structures were built before the implementation of California’s energy efficiency building code (Title 24) in the early 1980’s. This means that 3 out of 4 homes in California have never had to comply with any energy efficiency requirements whatsoever.” (Citation:

AB 758, sponsored by Assembly Member Nancy Skinner, was signed into law in October 2009 to addresses this underserved area.  Now, the program has created a need for hiring at the California Energy Commission to implement the provisions. Jobs, people. Jobs!  (Click here to see the job postings from the California Energy Commission).   I won’t get into it, but for the critics who will gripe about government jobs we can not afford, I argue, we can not afford to waste energy across our great state.  When companies waste money on energy, they don’t hire.  Further, jobs are created to fix the inefficient structures that are identified.

Now, let’s examine what the bill requires.  In summary (and using a great deal of the direct language from the bill) the bill mandates three main initiatives

First, the Energy Commission is required to establish a regulatory proceeding to develop a comprehensive program to achieve greater energy savings in the state’s existing residential and non-residential building stock.  A brief but thorough report on their progress is available here. The CEC created the Home Energy Rating System (HERS Phase II). Next is a complimentary program for commercial buildings. Further, the Energy Commission is required to report on the status of the program in the integrated energy policy report.

(If you’re reading on our home page, click “more” to read on and get links to a power point presentation from Assembly Member Skinner that has tons of great concise information.) (more…)