“Sprig” is a nickname for the Pintail Duck, a breed that is particularly admired for its trim form, great agility, unending endurance and flying speed, which can reach up to 65 miles per hour. Back in 1970, an avid outdoorsman and conservationist named Pepper Snyder decided to put down his electrician tools, borrow $3,000 from his parents, and start his own electrical contracting business in the family room of their house. To express the characteristics that he wanted his new company to possess, his one and only choice for the new firm’s name just had to be Sprig Electric Co.
Forty-five years later, Sprig Electric has fulfilled that founding ambition. Today it is among the largest electrical contracting (EC) firms in California, employing more than 800 people. The Sprig organization takes pride in the reputation it has earned in electrical and low-voltage contracting services with an enviable work history, featuring wide-ranging installation expertise and 24/7 service.
In a coffee break with Mike Jurewicz, chief operations officer of Sprig Electric, we saw a great opportunity—especially for the benefit of watchful ECs around the country—to explore the subject of California’s storied Title 24 and its effect on the everyday operations of electrical contractors in the Golden State. With other states following suit, this is pertinent information for all ECs.
The overall goal of California’s Title 24 is to increase building energy efficiency. As a Californian who has watched it evolve, how would you explain to outsiders what Title 24 means to electrical contractors and their customers inside California?
California first enacted its energy-reduction standards in “Title 24 Code of Regulations” in 1978. Over a dozen times since then, Title 24 standards have been amended and intensified. Compared to the previous 2008 criteria, the latest 2013 edition requires a 30 percent reduction in energy usage for nonresidential buildings and 25 percent for residential. Demandingly, the latest Title 24 requirements were not scheduled to be phased in gradually. They went into full force on July 1, 2014. So, any nonresidential building in California—newly constructed or remodeled—must be built to consume 30 percent less energy, as soon as it is energized.
How would you explain the ways in which the most recent changes in Title 24 affect routine operations of electrical contractors who offer design/build capabilities?
Designing and building to a new standard that demands 30 percent less energy-usage—requiring immediate compliance, literally overnight—has had an enormous impact on every department within Sprig. Identifying and incorporating new products and new controls has constituted quite a learning experience. Additionally, the way electrical loads must be distributed and metered has been altered. New buildings also have to be “solar-ready,” with rooftop accommodation for panel anchors and wiring pathways. Most significantly, Title 24 has introduced the necessity for performance compliance through a new cadre of people trained and certified to conduct system acceptance tests, prepare compliance documentation, conduct field verification testing and file Title 24 certificates with local and state enforcement agencies.
Estimating for both electrical construction and service work often includes tacking on additional allowances in anticipation of certain conditions that could increase the basic cost of a job. Is Title 24 a root cause for adding such new costs to electrical contracts?
Yes! The latest Title 24 standards have added substantial dollars to the cost per square foot of electrical work in every new construction and retrofit project. Incidentally, the impact of Title 24 is not confined solely to electrical installations. It also affects HVAC [heating, ventilating and air conditioning], plumbing and virtually every other element of construction work on buildings.
In the same vein, what else is going on in the electrical industry in California that we might see popping up elsewhere in the United States?
One of the biggest recent changes for electrical contractors in California centers on the introduction of new lighting controls. Manufacturers are pushing hard to keep up with the demand for these products, as they race to design and introduce new and improved solutions. California’s long-term objective with Title 24 is to achieve “zero-net-energy” status for all new construction by 2030. But business-savvy customers everywhere can benefit from the ROI generated by improved energy efficiency, and smart electrical contractors everywhere can differentiate themselves by “selling up” to promote energy efficiency. Hey, what EC wouldn’t like to take in a few more bucks per square foot on every project?