Arcata adopts new energy efficiency standards

The city of Arcata has adopted a new energy ordinance that will require residential buildings to be more efficient than the current minimum state standards dictate. Known as a “reach code,” the ordinance is a small part of Arcata’s local Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan.

“We’re looking for every opportunity to reduce greenhouse gases,” Emily Benvie, Environmental Programs Manager, said. “You pay more upfront to make it more efficient, but in the long term it’s cost effective.”

A city document identifies energy efficiency as a key component in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The document states that, “Humboldt Bay has the highest local sea-level rise rate in California, approximately two to three times higher than the long-term global rate.” Thus in an effort to stave off sea-level rise as an effect of increased greenhouse gases, the reach code was adopted.

According to Benvie, the state has existing standards covering energy efficiency, covered by Title 24 of the California
Code of Regulations. A provision within Title 24 requirements authorizes local jurisdictions to pass more stringent measures, “deemed reasonably necessary because of local conditions caused by climate, geology or topography,” according to a city document.

With stringency comes the burden of proof. Local jurisdictions looking to adopt reach codes must prove the measure they take will actually be cost effective. Julie Neander, deputy director of community services, said such a study was completed in 2016, called the “CALGreen Cost Effectiveness Study.” The study states, “the energy efficiency standards in this Ordinance will meet the Study’s cost-effectiveness standards in Arcata,” according to the city document.

The standards imposed by the ordinance pertain to newly constructed, low rise, single and multi-family units. Neander said newly constructed single family homes will be required to be 30 percent more efficient than the current state minimum. For newly constructed multi-family units, they must be 20 percent more efficient than state minimums, she said.

Some changes builders might implement to reach the standards are high performance attics and walls, high efficiency heating and water heating equipment, high efficiency fans, and more efficient hot water distribution systems, according to Neander. The efficiency standards can also be reached through utilizing a combination of efficiency measures and the photovoltaic compliance credit, which is a type of credit for solar systems.

“These buildings will last for 50-plus years,” she said. “They’ll be energy efficient now and for decades to come.”


Arcata adopts new energy efficiency standards, by Philip Santos, The Times Standard, January 5, 2019.

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