City holds Jan. 29 town hall about possible changes to building code

On January 1, 2020, new statewide standards codified by the California Energy Commission (CEC) for building energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions went into effect. The new standards include more stringent energy efficiency requirements and solar panel installation for new residential buildings. The CEC is encouraging local governments to adopt local ordinances – “Reach Codes” – in order to meet higher standards for energy efficiency which help achieve increased savings of energy and money, further reduce emissions, and support jurisdictions in their efforts to meet their Climate Action goals.

The City of Piedmont is holding a town hall-style Forum on the evening of January 29th, and follow-up workshops on Feb 12th and 26th, to get input from the Piedmont community about possible changes to the local building code. Staff is researching ways to reduce natural gas use in buildings and to increase solar panel installations, both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to increase residential resiliency to power outages and other effects of climate change.

People collectively continue to release carbon into the atmosphere at an unsustainable rate, and each passing year the effects of climate change become direr. Responding to these realities, Piedmont’s City Council passed the Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2.0 in March 2018, calls for “deep decarbonization” by 2050 and states that “avoiding the worst hazards and costs of climate change requires taking action now to both reduce emissions and mitigate the impacts.”

In the spirit of the CAP 2.0, the City has begun to envision a Piedmont in 2050 that emits as little carbon as possible and that can weather the many effects of climate change. Two key parts of that vision are reducing natural gas use in buildings by electrifying space and water heaters, and spreading solar panels and batteries as a clean, cheap source of power not affected by power outages.

The City wants to hear residents’ thoughts as it considers possible code changes. On January 29th, from 6:30 to 8:30, the City is holding a town hall-style Reach Code Forum in Community Hall get present our ideas about Reach Codes, facilitate a community discussion, and get feedback. Building Official Craig Griffin, Assistant Planner Mira Hahn, and Climate Fellow Justin Szasz will run the Forum; a representative from East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) will also be in attendance.

Following up on the Forum, the City is holding four workshops in February for members of the building industry and residents to discuss possible changes with each other and the City and give more detailed feedback. On February 12th, members of the Planning and Building Departments will be holding workshops in the EOC from 1:30-3:30 and 6:30-8:30, primarily intended for building industry contractors. EBCE’s consultant for Reach Codes will attend the Feb 12th workshops. Then, on February 26th, members of the Planning and Building Departments will be holding workshops in the EOC from 1:30-3:30 and 6:30-8:30 primarily intended for residents; a representative from EBCE will attend the Feb 26th workshops.

After the Forum and workshops, the City will take community feedback into account as it develops its final building code recommendations to go to Council. The City encourages any interested residents and/or building industry contractors to attend the Forum and workshops and give their feedback.

For more information, please contact Assistant Planner Mira Hahn at mhahn@piedmont.ca.gov or CivicSpark Climate Fellow Justin Szasz at jszasz@piedmont.ca.gov .

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