California’s revised Title 24 Energy-Efficiency Standards went into effect on Oct. 1, 2005, but for months prior to that, Gary Flamm, a lighting expert with the state’s Energy Commission (CEC), traveled across the country and extensively around the Golden State, spreading the word, soothing nerves and trying his best to explain the changes to come.

Flamm hit the trade shows and was a panelist at numerous seminars. He’d speak to smaller groups, such as one at Crescent Electric Supply’s new San Diego-area distribution facility, where he gave a “products and rules presentation” along with input from lighting manufacturers’ reps and a power company rebate expert. At first, Flamm would outline the new residential lighting standards and compare them to the existing standards. But he dropped that approach.

“It was too confusing,” Flamm said. “So I just presented the new standards.”

Why all the concern and confusion over a state code revision, and what does it mean to electrical contractors? California already had, perhaps, the most stringent energy code in the country, and Title 24, though slightly altered in 1998, had its last major revision in 1992. Since California often leads the country in environmental movements and the state’s economy, if considered separately, would rank in the top 10 worldwide. Therefore, its new energy-efficiency codes will have a far-reaching effect.

In an e-mail, Tom Leonard, director of marketing, Lighting Energy Management Systems Division, Leviton Manufacturing Co. Inc, Little Neck, N.Y., said the revision expands the scope of Title 24 to include residential lighting management, with requirements for high-efficacy lighting sources or lighting controls/occupancy sensors and dimmers to control loads that are not high efficacy.

“This is a prime opportunity for the electrical contractor to add value and take the builder beyond the lowest-cost solution and into the highest-performance solution: selecting the right lighting and control solutions to deliver the optimum project with the best in efficiency and performance,” Leonard wrote.

“Through education on both the code and the products, distributors and contractors can help make this a real evolution to higher-performance lighting systems.”

David Weigand, Leviton’s product manager for Lighting Management Systems, said the CEC is leading the way by requiring lighting controls to be used in conjunction with daylight when available on all commercial projects.

“They also recognized that standard lamp and ballast efficacies are not able to lower the lighting power densities much further and that gaining more energy savings will come from lighting controls for more individual control and daylight harvesting,” Weigand said.

Pamela K. Horner, Osram Sylvania’s director of Industry Relations and Standards, said Title 24 has been a model for requiring power densities (watts per square foot) in a way that cuts energy use and steers the market toward value-added lighting products such as high-efficiency electronic ballasts, high-lumen T8s, standard-output and high-output T5s, and compact fluorescents.

“The Title 24 approach is a ‘whole building’ approach, which incorporates an appreciation for the many complexities and nuances involved in specifying lighting systems,” Horner wrote in an e-mail. “It is my experience that any revisions California makes to its Title 24 standards are rationally based and include the input of all stakeholders, including the lighting industry.”

Title 24, one of the elders of energy codes, was born in 1978 out of a legislative mandate to reduce California’s energy consumption. This comprehensive building code has provisions for electrical installations of almost every type, including those for residential, commercial/industrial, outdoor lighting and even signs.

By contrast, the first widely adopted commercial code was the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) 90.1-89, which made its debut in 1989, and the first residential codes used by many states were the early 1990s versions of the Council of American Building Officials’ Model Energy Code (MEC), which was initially accepted in 1977 and based on 1975’s ASHRAE 90B, one of the earliest attempts at energy-efficient-building codification.

In a further effort toward standardization, the International Code Council was formed. The council tinkered with the MEC, turning it into the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which was published in 2000 and included both residential and commercial requirements. In addition, the Department of Energy has set a 1999 revision of ASHRAE 90.1, now called ASHRAE 90.1/IESNA (Illuminating Engineering Society of North America), as a baseline for all state energy codes, and ASHRAE and IECC have agreed to the same lighting requirements for their current standards.

The federal government’s longstanding and familiar Energy Star program is a kind of unofficial partner to the energy-code movement, which was influenced by increased awareness of United States’ dependence on oil. The signal moment of that awareness was OPEC’s Arab members’ decision to cut off the United States’ tap in 1973 because of support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War.

The rash of hurricanes in late 2005 and subsequent energy shock might have a similar effect and strengthen support for a national code, but getting all 50 states to agree will not be easy. A national energy code is possible, said Leonard, but the huge variance among state codes, which range from strict to lax, would make the process difficult. What is more likely is an aggressive but attainable minimal standard, much like ASHRAE 90.1. The IECC is a good paradigm, he said, but its requirements do not even come close to Title 24.

“Ultimately, a national minimum standard is a positive, much in the way the National Electrical Code (NEC) gives us a national basis,” Leonard said. “This should be a baseline, however, allowing for state requirements to determine how far beyond their own codes they must go to meet their needs.”

The Federal Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 1992 said all states must put in place a commercial energy code equal to or better than ASHRAE 90.1. Unfortunately, Weigand said, not all states have complied. A handful states still have no energy codes as all, but the 2005 EPAct gives tax incentives if a project exceeds ASHRAE 90.1 and should help achieve nationwide energy savings.

Flamm sees the Title 24 revisions as part of an inevitable movement toward national consensus. The market, he said, will eventually respond by producing high-quality, high-efficiency, aesthetically pleasing residential products, especially luminaires. His concern is that manufacturers, mainly those offshore, can label their products as high-efficacy when they aren’t. Residential specs, he said, are usually not that complete and need to come up to nonresidential quality.

“The builder needs to know how to write specifications. If you look at a specification for a nonresidential application, they’re pretty well spelled out,” Flamm said. “They’ll actually spell out the performance, and they’ll quote a particular model or they’ll say ‘or equal.’”

As Weigand and Leonard noted, the luminaire doesn’t have to meet Title 24 standards to be used in an application that meets code. Title 24 is flexible and gives options in different types of rooms. Installations using a high-efficacy luminaire or a low-efficacy luminaire with either a dimmer or a manual-on occupancy sensor can each satisfy the standards.

“If I have a recess can in the first story of a two-story building, and it’s in the living room and I control it with a dimmer, that lighting system meets the code,” Flamm said. “So low-efficacy fixtures can still meet the standard if they have appropriate control for the room in which they’re installed.”

Contractors should be aware of how other changes in Title 24 will affect them. In a Lighting Controls Association white paper, Charles Knuffke, Western Regional technical manager, Watt Stopper/Legrand, thinks Title 24 may be a “testing ground” for new ideas that might become part of the national energy codes.

He also thinks commissioning of all installed lighting-control systems is a big issue under the revised codes. In Knuffke’s opinion, it is a good idea—it is also a prerequisite on LEED projects—but he is unsure how it will be executed in California.

“I say I’m unsure because I’m not sure who’s expected to do this work—this might be a case where the engineer is expecting the contractor to do the commissioning, but has the contractor included this additional cost in their proposal?” Knuffke wrote. “The new commissioning requirement might really start increasing the number of full-time commissioning agents. Some of these companies have been around for quite some time, and they have their own professional organization, but their penetration has usually been limited to just high-end projects. With the new requirements, this is a huge business opportunity.”

As a manufacturer, Watt Stopper/Legrand had to look at the changes and make their devices comply with the revisions. Along with commissioning, Knuffke, like Weigand, sees significant change in daylighting, which he said has always been a good idea.

“Almost any study that’s been done will have overwhelming positive results in occupant productivity and health or even product sales growth when daylighting has been incorporated in the design of the building. But Title 24 has been very tentative about dealing with daylighting,” he wrote. “In the past, all you had to do was separately switch some of the lights in a daylight zone from the lighting in the nondaylight portion of the zone. There was no mandate for any automatic control function. Now, though you’ve got mandatory automatic daylighting control in any 2,500-square-foot skylight daylighting zone, and a mandate that some buildings have to add skylights. I can’t think of a stronger one-two punch to drive daylighting into more buildings. I think we’re going to see lots of companies look to invest in skylights—what better than a California mandate to increase skylight sales growth?”

As traditional energy sources are depleted and alternative sources are developed to fill the need, energy codes will become an increasingly integral part of the green building movement. Sustainable building is no longer a trend but a reality, a point that experts drove home often at the October 2005 Reed and McGraw-Hill construction conferences in Washington, D.C.

“In as much as it has become a way of life, it is not a trend. Energy conservation is the reality of our life now, and we are in this position now partly by not taking these measures earlier,” Leonard said. “Manufacturers such as Leviton are making energy-management products a strategic focus, with the full expectation that the energy conservation needs will continue to grow as we work harder to stretch our finite natural resources.” EC

FULMER is a freelance witer based in Joppa, Md., and former editor of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. He can be reached at johnsfulmer@comcast.net.