Once enacted, the new California energy code will increase energy performance by 30% says Brennen.

Part 2 of 2

LOS ANGELES— Gary Brennen, co-president of Syska Hennessy Group, recently chatted with GlobeSt.com on how the next big innovation in real estate design is the transformation of space in the office sector. In part two of this Q&A, he talks about the affects of the new California Energy Code.

GlobeSt.com: Sustainability and LEED designations have been actively discussed for years now. What is the current standard, and what is to come?

Gary Brennen: For the time being, LEED remains the industry standard. The LEED program continues to update and revise its criteria, along with its evolving energy and environmental goals.

We do, however, see other standards being discussed throughout the industry.  One example is Green Globes, which has received a stamp of approval from GSA as an acceptable alternative to LEED.  Green Globes uses the CBECS database for comparing energy savings, verses LEED, which uses ASHRAE 90.1 or Title 24 (CA).  Based on this differentiator, one standard may realize more points than the other, depending on building type and program.

Even with LEED as the current baseline standard and emerging standards such as Green Globes, we continue to see more attention being paid to more progressive programs, such as the Living Building Challenge. This green building certification program is comprised of seven performance areas, including site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. 

The Living Building Challenge embraces the paradigm of Net Zero for energy and water.   Currently, it is a goal that will be a stretch for the industry, though it’s important to note that LEED emerged in the same way only a few years ago.

GlobeSt.com:  We know that the California energy code was supposed to be updated in January 2014. How will this affect new construction?

Brennen:  The California Energy Commission recently elected to postpone the effective date of its new energy code until July of 2014. This will allow building officials, consultants and building owners the additional time necessary to familiarize themselves with the new standard, and to gain an understanding of the software needed to ease compliance analysis.

Once enacted, the new energy code will increase energy performance by 30%. More dramatically, perhaps, is the new “design phase peer review” introduced by the updated code.

As part of this new phase, all projects in excess of 50,000 square feet must undergo a third-party peer review of design intent and energy measures.

Owners and developers are grappling with this additional cost and new third-party consultant role, however, we believe that the new mandatory third-party review will lead to better outcomes as it relates to actual energy reduction strategies and compliance.

GlobeSt.com: With regard to energy standards, we understand that Syska was an early adopter of the 2030 Challenge. What has been the overall industry response to this challenge? Do you believe that all new buildings will be carbon neutral by 2030?

Brennen: We believe the industry is moving towards a more energy conscious and environmentally aware design and construction. Every opportunity appears to begin with that sensitivity in mind. 

However, there is much more research, collaboration and a deeper commitment needed by all stakeholders—including government, owners, manufacturers, contractors and design professionals—in order to achieve the innovations needed for carbon neutrality. 

Owners want to do the right thing, but not at an inordinate premium. Unfortunately, the hurdles are too large to make the carbon neutral commitment universal in the current market.

Currently, we see select projects and clients working towards, and often achieving, carbon neutrality; however the number is few and far between. Ultimately, further changes in code and more aggressive incentive programs will likely be necessary in order to move mainstream AEC projects to carbon neutrality.