The city recently passed an ordinance mandating that all future single-family homes built in the coastal enclave achieve ZNE status, based on the standards contained within the 2016 California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen). Though the term has many nuanced definitions deployed across the construction industry and energy development fields, the CALGreen standard referenced by the Santa Monica ordinance defines ZNE construction as resulting in a building where the value of the energy produced on-site by renewable energy technologies and the value of the energy consumed annually by the building are equal.
The new sustainability ordinance was approved by the Santa Monica City Council last week and will go effect in 2017 pending further approval. The new rule also contains a provision requiring new multifamily and commercial buildings reduce their energy consumption to ten percent below the rates set forth in the currently-in-effect 2016 California Energy Code.
In a press release announcing the new guidelines, Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez celebrated the city’s environmental bonafides, saying “Santa Monica is proud to take a global lead in zero net energy building standards that put the State’s environmental policy to action. Council’s adoption of this new ordinance reflects our city’s continued commitment to the environment,” adding, “ZNE construction, considered the gold standard for green buildings, is a major component that will help us reach our ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.”
The measure comes after a steady increase in environmentally-focused regulation across the state and follows the adoption of the state’s Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan by the California Public Utilities Commission in 2008. That plan established a roadmap for all buildings in the state to be zero net energy users over time. The plan also established a goal for all residential construction to be ZNE by 2020 with all new commercial construction achieving the same status by 2030. Most municipalities, however, have lagged in reaching efficiency targets and Santa Monica’s aggressive timetable for realizing these changes marks the first ordinance passed by a California municipality to strive for ZNE construction.
The measure also brings into relief a gaping disconnect in terms of what is and is not considered “sustainable” in the public mind, with the glossy, technological approaches to sustainability being pursued at the municipal level being seemingly at odds with draconian, anti-development measures being pursued via the ballot box aimed at reducing the city’s ability to generate dense, urban development.
Before final implementation, the measure must gain final approval from the California Energy Commission.