Tang Yau Hoong

With the latest version of Title 24, Part 6, the California skyline is about to surrender some of its 24/7 nocturnal glow. The goal is for offices, corridors, stairwells, library stacks, parking garages, and other intermittently used structures to cease producing widespread lighting waste and light pollution. Retrofitted buildings will have to incorporate task-appropriate technologies; in new construction, sensors, timers, and dimmers will be standard equipment. Commissioning and acceptance-testing requirements will thwart loophole-hunters by linking certificates of occupancy to functionality.

For designers, contractors, and owners, this means some substantial up-front costs, and for the controls industry, some expanding opportunities. For other states and the federal government, it’s an experiment to watch, and perhaps to emulate, especially if controls manufacturers nationwide and regulators in other jurisdictions look to California as a bellwether. “We’re under state mandate, by 2020, [for] residential [energy use] to be net zero, and 2030 [for] commercial to be net zero,” says Chip Israel, CEO and founder of Lighting Design Alliance in Long Beach, Calif.

Some Californians view this change as welcome, even overdue; others, as unsettling. “In the professional community, people are reasonably well prepared,” observes Darrell Hawthorne, principal of Architecture & Light in San Francisco. The lay community, in contrast, has struck him as “not prepared.” Uncertainty over what the code would require drove a scramble for early permits before it took effect. “We saw a big spike of work right before the [July 1] deadline [for the 2013 version of Title 24, Part 6] going into effect,” Israel says. Contractors unfamiliar with lighting designers’ “controls narrative,” he adds, have found the requirements particularly confusing; the clearer the design rationale and the better the communications among designers, owners, and on-site personnel, the smoother the adjustment.

Approval is not universal. Sean O’Connor, principal of Sean O’Connor Lighting in Beverly Hills, Calif., minces no words in articulating the concern shared by many: “The new Title 24, Part 6 is completely unrealistic, both in terms of LPD [lighting power density], added costs to clients, and availability of product to meet some of these requirements. … More than any other standard to date, the new T24 requirements for equipment are not able to be met by more than a select few manufacturers, and those manufacturers’ products may not be architecturally compatible or may be too high-end or too low-end for a project. We are not in a good place to do our job, and our clients suffer because of it.”

Hawthorne, though, points to the big picture, where the gains outweigh the transitional speedbumps: “This is a huge surge forward in terms of energy efficiency [and] the development of more sophisticated lighting controls.” Those who have worked to shape the standards and those who chafe under them agree on one point: the new Title 24, Part 6 disrupts business as usual. Professionals who are ready for its emphasis on controls and system integration stand to benefit as California leads the way toward an era of stricter uses and management of lighting.

What it Does—and Doesn’t—Mean
Every three years, California Building Standards Commission officials update Title 24, the state building code, of which Part 6 (under the California Energy Commission [CEC]) governs energy use, including building envelope measures, mechanical systems, and process power loads as well as indoor and outdoor lighting (governed by Section 130 of Part 6). Along with ASHRAE Standard 90.1 and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), Title 24, Part 6 is one of the nation’s three major systems for measuring and controlling buildings’ energy performance.

The core rationale for the 2013 version of Title 24, Part 6, which replaces the 2008 standard and took effect on July 1, 2014 (after a six-month shift in the original Jan. 1 deadline), is as simple as picking low-hanging fruit. “If no one’s there, why do we need to be using this much energy to light spaces that don’t need it?” asks Kelly Cunningham, outreach director at the California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC), a research, development, and training facility based at the University of California, Davis.

Commentators point out that the most important changes in the new Title 24, Part 6 pertain to the power consumption of luminaires in unoccupied or intermittently occupied spaces and the processes for certifying that new or retrofitted buildings are in compliance. Cunningham emphasizes a key distinction, commonly misunderstood: “The code is not dictating a reduction in light levels by X percent; it’s power.” For new residential projects, CEC classifies every luminaire as high-efficacy or low-efficacy, with separate switching for the two types; a luminaire that can accept a low-efficacy lamp or has not been certified does not qualify as high-efficacy. LED luminaires for indoor residential use need a color rendering index (CRI) of 90 and a correlated color temperature (CCT) of 2700K to 4000K to qualify as high-efficacy. The code requires a minimum of 50 percent high-efficacy lighting, measured by total wattage, in kitchens; at least one high-efficacy luminaire in bathrooms; high-efficacy lighting with vacancy sensors in garages, laundry rooms, and utility rooms; either high-efficacy luminaires or controls in hallways, bedrooms, living, and dining rooms; and for outdoor lighting, either high-efficacy luminaires or, for low-efficacy luminaires, non-overridable controls.

Gary Flamm, a consultant who supervised the CEC’s Building Standards Development Unit and served as lighting lead contact until his retirement last February, observes that residential spaces are harder to regulate than nonresidential. “While you can assign a watt-per-square-foot allotment to non-residential, you cannot make that corollary to residential, because residential does not have uniform lighting.” The widespread assumption “that there are limits to illumination in residential lighting is simply not true,” Flamm says. As Hawthorne notes, “The CEC has treaded very lightly about how they have regulated lighting in residences.”

For nonresidential buildings, in contrast, detailed specifications call for combinations of five strategies—dimmers, sensors, timers, manual controls, and demand-response capability—in different typologies and conditions. Among salient points in the code, areas larger than 100 square feet need multi-level controls or continuous dimming, meeting a set of uniformity requirements for each luminaire type; each luminaire needs to be connected to at least one of five types of controls (manual continuous dimming with on/off switching, lumen maintenance, tuning maximum light levels at a level lower than full power, automatic daylight controls, or demand response controls). Classrooms are an exception to the multi-level requirements; if they have a connected general lighting load less than or equal to 0.7W per square foot, they need at least one control step between 30 percent and 70 percent of full power.

Another new aspect of the stricter regulations is the proportion of floor area required to be in daylighting zones; it has now risen to 75 percent (higher than the 2008 code’s 50 percent) and applies to buildings greater than 5,000 square feet (formerly 8,000). Indoor parking areas and secondary spaces have also now been added to the areas needing occupancy sensors (along with offices above 250 square feet, conference rooms, multipurpose rooms, and classrooms); sensors must cut power by 50 percent when corridors, stairwells, warehouse aisles, and library stacks are unoccupied; security and egress lighting-allowance maxima drop from 0.3W to 0.2 W per square foot when buildings are occupied.

Demand-response-capability requirements expand considerably in the updated Part 6. The 2008 version confined these requirements to retail buildings with sales floor areas greater than 50,000 square feet. The new code calls for all nonresidential buildings greater than 10,000 square feet to be able to respond to a signal cutting lighting power at least 15 percent below maximum. This provision pertains to functionality only, Flamm adds; activating this function is a separate private arrangement between system owners and utilities or other central signaling sources, such as home offices for chain commercial buildings. The CLTC summarizes the regulations online at cltc.ucdavis.edu/title24.

How They Got There
Although from some perspectives the new code looks draconian, it’s by no means arbitrary. The process of code revision includes three phases that overlap each other on the triennial cycle, Flamm says. In a pre-rulemaking discovery phase, efficiency advocates propose ideas to modify current standards, and CEC staff consider unresolved issues from previous versions. These parties then negotiate a feasible scope of work for the period. Advocates vet their ideas in public workshops with stakeholders, including manufacturers, consultants, electrical engineers, building department representatives, and designers, followed by staff workshops and recommendations to the five commissioners. The federal Administrative Procedure Act stipulates a 45-day public comment period before a formal rulemaking proceeding; 10 days of addressing issues of cost, technical feasibility, and energy savings; another posting of “15-day language” for comment; and finally a CEC vote, provided no legitimate complaints have arisen.

“The energy-efficiency advocates always want to go a lot further than the Energy Commission feels like it has the resources to go,” Flamm says. The negotiations sometimes produce rules that draw poor reactions and are later dropped, such as the 2008 code’s requirements for programmable clock thermostats in residential and light commercial settings.

Considering “unintended consequences that may happen if the right stakeholders are not looking over California’s shoulders, not on purpose, but because nobody knows everything,” Flamm says, he recommends that more professionals get involved in the rulemaking process, offering feedback to the CEC through its website, energy.ca.gov. Flamm agrees that the code does not always match every project circumstance. “It is critical that specific issues that are encountered be brought to the attention of the CEC to say, ‘I have this building, and this application, and it is not technically feasible for me to do all five of these lighting controls.’ The CEC will not know that if it is not brought to their attention.”

The CEC looks at two chief criteria when considering a provision, Israel says: fair practice and metrics derived from existing well-designed projects. The new standard also affects incentive programs offered by California’s public utilities (the three majors being Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric) for energy-conserving upgrades. “Title 24, Part 6 is set as the baseline in terms of what you can incentivize,” Cunningham says. “You have to be beyond code in order to receive an incentive from the investor and utilities.” She notes that certain technologies need to be graduated out of the incentive portfolio as the code already mandates that they be implemented. Further complicating the process is the fact that the majority of the building stock does not comply with the code that just went into effect July 1. “They’re not even up to the 2008 code,” Cunningham says. Another important change, she adds, is having state codes align with national codes, so that there is more consistency between the required criteria.

Cunningham also notes that end users who have seen demonstrations of premium systems sometimes overestimate the complexity of the new requirements. Title 24, Part 6 “offers quite a few ways to comply with the controls portion of the code without doing what one might imagine as the Cadillac kit—the networked control system with all luminaires dialed into a sophisticated software to monitor energy use.”

The Certification Process
The nonresidential Title 24, Part 6 rules are rigorous enough to require a certification process for test technicians—the California Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program (CALCTP)—requiring recertification each time the codes change in the future. This new requirement “will cost approximately the same rate as an electrician in terms of their hourly cost to add to the job,” Cunningham says. “But the hope is that it reduces cost later when things aren’t harvesting the amount of energy.”

CALCTP is also a way for the CEC to catch up on implementing the certification process. “It’s no longer the responsibility of the local building official,” Hawthorne says. He speculates that a gap may appear between the intentions behind the acceptance-testing provision and the results in the field, depending on how rigorously the standards are applied.

“Why the CEC has gone about it the way they have, I have no idea. They have a whole fleet of people out there that were the logical candidates to become the people to do this, and it’s the people who do inspections for the Division of the State Architect. The [CEC] could have folded it into that program. Instead, they’re doing it privately. They’re creating a whole other business group.” Consequently, the greatest potential unintended consequence of the new code, Hawthorne says, is a scenario where contractors have a financial motive to influence or abuse the certification process, perhaps setting up “a kind of dummy business” with acceptance testing essentially amounting to self-certification. “It’s taken the authority [or] obligation for verification out of the public sphere and put it into a private contracting sphere,” Hawthorne says. “I think that the CEC needs to develop a program in which inspecting agencies, not independent contractors, are responsible for that, [but] they just didn’t have the time or the ability to do that. They’re walking into new territory.”

Such scenarios conceivably represent as substantial a stimulus for California’s legal profession as the dimmability requirements create for manufacturers of controls and LEDs. CALCTP addresses the possibility explicitly: its Acceptance Testing Policies Manual includes a section on “conflict of interest and appearance of impropriety.” It is too early to tell whether such practices are arising, but Hawthorne describes it as the largest potential unintended consequence of the new program.

Where California Goes, Will the Nation Follow?
These changes appear in a context of urgency and opportunity. California has long led the nation in controlling energy use per capita. Buildings account for 39 percent of the U.S.’s primary energy consumption, and lighting is the highest portion (28 percent) of that total. Evolution in lamp technology has made inroads, but the greatest potential gains come from reducing waste use: reducing operating hours, reducing watts used when lights are on, reducing the associated cooling load, and in turn maximizing the purposeful use of sunlight. In lighting power use, as in vehicular emissions standards, California may remain more stringent and progressive than the rest of the nation while nudging national standards forward.