Energy Bill on the Move

in: AIACC / 4 Comments
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A bill moving through the Legislature allows the California Energy Commission to enforce energy and water efficiency standards for the built environment, and imposes penalties of $2,500 per violation of those standards. AB 834, which the AIACC Opposes, is expected to pass the State Assembly at any time, and then would have to be heard in the State Senate before being sent to the Governor.
According to the author of AB 834, this bill is needed because:

Our standards for building efficiency are recognized as leading the nation in energy savings and serves as one of the primary energy policy tools that resulted in California’s per capita energy use staying essentially constant over the past 30 years, while the rest of the United States’ consumption increased steadily. However, the effectiveness of the building energy efficiency standards is dependent on compliance with the standards. Violations of these standards not only threaten energy savings, they also result in a substantial financial loss to consumers who purchase energy efficiency goods and services and represent unfair competition that dramatically impacts the viability of legitimate businesses.

AB 834 is needed to ensure that reported energy savings are real, consumers who purchase services for home improvement are protected, and businesses that provide energy efficiency services are operating on a level playing field.

The main target of AB 834 is the illegal project that is built without a building permit and is not designed or constructed in compliance with the building code. The AIACC does not have any concern with AB 834 focusing on those types of projects. However, the scope of AB 834 is not limited to illegal projects. It includes legally permitted and inspected projects designed by architects. Unfortunatley, the author has rejected calls to remove legally permitted and inspected projects from the scope of the bill.

The AIACC Board of Directors adopted its “Oppose” position because:

  • The plans prepared by architects are reviewed by a government entity for compliance with California’s building standards
  • Disciplinary action against architects should be administered by the California Architects Board
  • Any enforcement by the Energy Commission likely would not consider standard of care or negligence
  • Even when an architect is not at fault, any administrative investigation by the Energy Commission will require an architect to spend significant time and money documenting the architect’s compliance with all relevant building standards

The AIACC will continue to oppose this bill, and ask for projects that receive government plan review and construction inspection to be exempted from AB 834.
Do you have any comments on AB 834?

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Mark Christian, Hon. AIACC

Mark Christian, Hon. AIACC, is the Director of Legislative Affairs for the AIA California Council, a position he has held since 1999. In this position, Mark is responsible for monitoring the CA State Legislature, identifying bills of interest to the profession, developing and implementing strategies for the positive outcome of legislation of interest to the profession, and representing the profession before the legislature. Prior to joining the AIACC, Mark worked for the State Assembly for nine years in several capacities, including as a policy consultant on several significant environmental laws. He holds a B.A. in Economics from the California State University, Sacramento.

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  1. avatar
    Ben White, NCARB, LEED AP

    It is important to understand that Assembly Member Das Williams represents a district that has very few architects practicing in it – Santa Barbara, Ventura, Isla Vista, Goleta, etc. For that reason, he will not be inclined to be inclusive of the views of a profession that holds very little sway over his next election. However, the areas he represents ARE environmentally focused and have a strong and active network of environmental NGO’s that hold real political power in the area. So if the AIA wants to move Williams on this bill, a possible strategy is to appeal to the environmental community there and show them the benefits of changing the wording of this bill. Starting points would be the Community Environmental Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, both located in Santa Barbara.
    As someone with a Master’s degree in Environmental Science, I don’t think Williams, or the public understands or cares much about the distinctions between the work that the bill claims to target (much of which doesn’t require an architect anyway), architect-designed work, and the potential impacts to the profession. It is up to the AIACC and local AIA chapter to inform the public and the environmental NGO’s – that’s what we pay our fees for. The public is extremely misinformed about what architects do, anyway – this is a small, but good opportunity to help them understand the value we bring to the table.
    As a side note, one approach that may want to be analyzed is the the dollar value of work that would be impacted with and without a provision creating a distinction between illegal and legal work.

  2. avatar
    David Solomon

    I am a little confused about how the CEC would enforce the standards. If the basis for enforcement is on actual consumption — well, the building owners, users and facility maintenance staff have more impact on actual consumption than do architects, engineers and contractors. Any design features built into a building or project can be overridden, removed, or otherwise compromised upon occupancy, with no say by the AEC team. Let’s face it, is the CEC going to fine homeowners or businesses for setting the thermostat too high?! Maybe … in which case they will have to consider waivers (e.g. medical necesssity, change of use, etc.).

    The AIA should support the bill if there is an exemption for projects to the extent they are designed and built in conformance with the then-current energy standards, as determined by local or state jurisdiction plan checkers and inspectors. I see a compromise to allow enforcement actions against projects whose designs were reviewed and determined to be in compliance, but then fall out of compliance due to design or construction changes made and not approved by the agency having jurisdiction. Failing these changes, I agree that the AIACC should oppose this bill.

  3. avatar
    roger bennett

    My experience has been that dealing with the Los Angeles Building Dept. is so onerous that to allow them more power would be a trully more hideous procedure than it is now. They are not there to serve the public, but to serve themselves. Currently, I am attempting to obtain a permit for a respectable sized solar panel project only to be denied by the building dept.
    on the grounds of some arcane codes. Absolutely no consideration for the environment. Architects, for the most part, care about the environment. Building departments don’t.

  4. avatar
    Donald Wardlaw AIA

    I disagree with the premise of the bill. CA energy savings over the past 30 years are testament to the fact that further coercion is not needed. If anything, CEC should take a deep breath and show some self restraint. Not all consequences of their policies are indisputably beneficial. I support the boards position.

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