LA Will Require All New Buildings To Be Electric-Only. But Are We Ready?
In early December, LA became the 69th and largest city in the state to require all new buildings to be all-electric. That will be the law of the land for new construction at the end of January, according to the ordinance (there are exceptions for emergency equipment and commercial cooking).
From their materials to their gas connections, existing buildings account for more than 40% of LA’s greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why the city wants to make sure new buildings don’t add to that footprint.
“If we’re going to meet our goals around climate change, we’re really going to have to look critically at how we can reduce the emissions that are produced by buildings,” said Ben Stapleton, executive director of the nonprofit US Green Building Council. Los Angeles. “So when we look at our homes, think about things that use gas.”
This is usually:
- Stoves and stoves
- Hot water heating
- Furnaces and heaters
- Clothes dryer
- Outdoor bonfires and fire pits
Stapleton said this means the new buildings will have:
- Induction hobs instead of gas stoves
- Heat pumps instead of traditional heating and air conditioning units
- No gas burning fireplaces or outdoor fire pits
2023: The Year of the Electric Heat Pump?
“The goal is that as the grid gets cleaner over time — we have state-level commitments to have 100% renewable energy by 2045 — if we shift more of our energy use to the grid, that should also make our use of energy cleaner. time,” Stapleton said.
And from stylish induction hobs to energy-efficient heat pumps, the all-electric future aims to be more energy efficient overall.
“The reality is that energy conservation or energy efficiency, as unfun and unsexy as it sounds, is actually a really important part of electrification,” Stapleton said. “We get asked this question all the time: How is the network going to handle it? The network is being designed to handle all these things for a long time. We need to make sure that as we make this transition, our homes are also resilient in the face of those challenges.”
A bigger challenge in the transition – and higher costs – will be renovating the existing buildings that account for 40% of the city’s emissions in the first place. LA is expected to finalize the rules for this in 2023.
Country estimates it will need to at least double the amount of electricity it generates to support more electric vehicles, electric appliances and other efforts to wean off fossil fuels. In addition to other renewables, the state will need to quadruple its solar and wind power, meaning — in just the next 13 years — efforts to build large-scale solar and battery storage will need to accelerate by 700%. Read more here.
Saving developer costs
While retrofitting buildings can be more expensive, building all-electric from scratch tends to be the same cost or cheaper than existing building costs, said Tim Kohut, director of sustainable design at National Community Renaissance (National CORE ), a regional developer of affordable housing.
“It’s cost-neutral or cost-negative for the informed homeowner or developer,” Kohut said.
National CORE is currently building 10 all-electric affordable housing projects in Southern California, with at least 2,000 units under construction. Kohut said the initial cost is the same or less than what the organization has spent building fuel-efficient buildings, and they expect to save even more in costs in the long run when paired with rooftop or community solar.
Resources from the US Green Building Council – Los Angeles
The nonprofit organization has resources for property managers, renters and homeowners looking to make their buildings more environmentally and climate friendly. Check out the resources here.
“There’s an environmental imperative to this, but for us, we’re trying to be relentless in reducing the cost of developing, building and operating affordable housing,” Kohut said. “This is a better solution and equals the cost of natural gas or is saving us money.”
Not only that, but some residents said it also saves money. I visited one of their all-electric, solar-powered affordable housing developments in Rancho Cucamonga, where a resident yelled at me, “You want to know how much I pay for electricity? Nothing!”
“The amount of avoided utility costs for homeowners or property owners is really going to start to cause a wake-up call,” Kohut said. “And more and more people will find that this is exactly what we need to do for economic reasons, not just because climate change is real.”
Challenges for the construction industry
DeAndre Valencia, vice president of the Southern California Construction Industry Association, said electrification laws in various cities and counties are a headache for the industry … and that local governments need to keep pace with the state.
“We believe through our negotiations with the state that, you know, in 2026, we’ll probably be at 100% electrification,” Valencia said. “So why rush the wagon when we’re not fully prepared?”
Valencia said a new California building code goes into effect in January that requires electric heat pumps in new construction. Valencia said this will make most new builds gas-free, without the hard line of 100% electric – and the requirements do not affect supply chain issues and grid reliability issues.
He also said the industry was concerned about training a workforce to install newer technologies such as heat pumps.
“We need that time to train individuals and right now, there is a shortage of workers,” he said. “It’s very difficult to find qualified people, whether they’re union or non-union workers, to go out there and do the work.”
“We believe in decarbonization,” added Valencia. “However, we are against 100% electrification. It’s all about getting there in stages.”
Urgent Climate Questions
The fires. Mudslide. Heat waves. What questions do you need answered as you prepare for the effects of a climate emergency?