This is in general alignment with the evolving global GHG emissions reductions currently being negotiated at the international level, with an agreement expected in January of 2015. In so doing this, California is at the forefront of dealing with US emissions reductions strategies and implementation.
California's new energy code - Title 24 - is requiring that all new residential buildings be net-zero in terms of emissions by 2020 and all new commercial buildings be net-zero by 2030. Fifty percent of existing state-owned buildings will be zero net energy by 2030. Other states are enacting tax credits to create incentives for similar building techniques. In coordination with these code revisions, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) is revising the financial incentives offered through utilities to encourage energy efficiency investments by building owners. The CPUC is reducing or eliminating past financial incentives for energy efficiency investments that are now mandated by Title 24. This year a new set of financial incentives will be launched that support comprehensive building solutions.
What is a net zero structure? Basically it's one that creates no emissions in its materials assembly and uses solar panels to offset electrical use. No natural gas is envisioned for new construction. California is aware that a steep increase in renewable energy must come with an investment in a smart electricity grid — and energy storage is a key part of the equation. Storage is intended to help address the intermittency of renewable energy generation, and can also improve the resilience of the electricity grid overall. This and other major impacts are anticipated on the physical infrastructure of our cities as well as industry codes and practices.
A case study and good example of the kind of things that will need to be done in residential construction, for example, are here at Treehugger. But the impact of these practices go far beyond simply designing in the traditional manner; this will radically change because of the real-time analysis in the design environment, enabling design decisions like form, orientation and facade design with real-time feedback using BIM program software. Integrated performance analysis lets designers understand the impacts of design options and allows for faster, more efficient design decisions with an audited design trail exported as clear reports. This represents a major shift for the architecture and construction fields, particularly since the construction product supply chain will be tracked in the design models as well, in order to comply with LEED-type standards.
This is the cutting edge of design and construction practice, being driven by the requirements of the GHG emissions reductions. Once in place, it will move rapidly on a technological learning curve which will outpace the old fossil fueled mechanics to embrace a flexible, dynamic and living environment.
Update: Emerging trends transforming the digital design and building production process. This is an approaching gamechanger for the built environment and compliance with extreme energy conservation design.