Changes to the CA Green Building Standards Code

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Changes are being made to improve energy conservation in hot water delivery to plumbing fixtures, to make the installation of grab bars in bathrooms easier, and to make sure maintenance information for solar and car-charging systems is included with the documentation provided to new home buyers.

Three (3) changes to CALGreen (Title 24, Part II), proposed to take effect in 2016, will require changes to the Homeowner Maintenance Manual given to new home buyers.  When adopted, these changes would apply to any project for which the APPLICATION for building permit occurs after January 1, 2016.

The first change affects the way water heater piping is installed.  This will apply to tankless and tank-type systems.  The user will have a control at the sink or shower to start the recirculation pump.  An “aquastat” (senses water temperature) will turn the pump off when hot water reaches the sink or shower.  The Homeowner Manual will need to include maintenance information on this new system:

Proposed Change to CALGreen in the “Definitions” Section:

DEMAND HOT WATER RECIRCULATION SYSTEM. A hot water recirculation system requiring manual activation and a thermostat that will automatically shut off the recirculation pump when the water temperature reaches a preset level at the point of use.]

Rationale: HCD proposes to adopt the above referenced definition. The terms “Demand Recirculation System” is used in Section 4.408.6, which HCD proposes for adoption.

Proposed Change to CALGreen in the “Definitions” Section:

HOT WATER RECIRCULATION SYSTEM. A hot water distribution system that reduces the time needed to deliver hot water to fixtures that are distant from the water heater, boiler or other water heating equipment. The recirculation system is comprised of hot water supply and return piping with shutoff valves, balancing valves, circulating pumps, and a method of controlling the circulating system.]

Rationale: HCD proposes to adopt the above referenced definition. The terms “Hot Water Recirculation System” is used in Section 4.408.6, which HCD proposes for adoption.


The second change requires that additional “backing” (blocking) be installed in bathroom walls at strategic locations to support the installation of grab bars.  Section 4.410.1 “Operation and Maintenance Manual” will be changed to add Bullet Point #11, which says that information and/or drawings showing the location of this additional backing needs to be included in the Homeowner Manual:

Proposed Changes to CALGreen in Section 4.408.6:

4.408.6 Reinforcement for bathrooms. All ground floor bathrooms and/or powder rooms in residential dwelling units shall be provided with reinforcement for future installation of grab bars. The grab bar reinforcement shall be installed in accordance with all of the following (the proposed changes include five (5) installation requirements, not included here):

Rationale: HCD proposes to adopt the above referenced section. This proposal would require installation of reinforcement for grab bars in all ground floor bathrooms and/or powder rooms in residential dwelling units with some exceptions.

HCD’s proposal would require reinforcement blocking/backing to be provided in the wall framing for future installation of grab bars in ground floor bathrooms constructed under this code at a very minimal cost. The advantages and benefits of providing this reinforcement at the time of original construction are many; Homeowners desiring to install grab bars for bathtubs, showers, and water closets after original construction will not be required to go through a costly and messy project to remove finishes and open up interior walls to retrofit wall framing, and install backing to support grab bars.  The blocking/backing material is readily available as scraps or cutoffs of framing lumber during the original construction of a home, so the minimal cost to cut and install blocking/backing in the bathroom walls is in most cases limited to the labor cost.  Additionally, the use of this scrap lumber will reduce the amount of construction waste transported to landfills or material recovery facilities.  Another benefit is the fact that installing the reinforcement blocking/backing during original construction, as compared to after the walls are finished can minimize the number of vehicle miles travelled for carpenters, drywall contractors, painters, and other trades associated with demolition, installation of reinforcement, replacement of gypsum board and wall finishes after original construction, thereby helping the state reach its AB 32 goals of reducing the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The proposed amendment is intended to address the potential issues of the aging population in California by providing readily adaptable bathrooms which are easier to install grab bars for mobility issues associated with our aging population, and is not related to the accessibility provisions of the California Building Code, Chapter 11A.  The provisions are intended to reduce the cost for future installation of grab bars, and reduce the amount of greenhouse gases generated associated with alteration projects.  The added benefit of using this often available scrap lumber as backing is that it reduces the amount of construction waste.

HCD also proposes to adopt new Item 11 in Section 4.410, requiring information and/or drawings identifying the location of grab bar reinforcement in bathrooms. This proposal is necessary due to the newly proposed requirement for grab bar reinforcement in Section 4.409.1.

SECTION 4.410

BUILDING MAINTENANCE AND OPERATION

4.410.1 Operation and maintenance manual. At the time of final inspection, a manual, compact disc, web-based reference or other media acceptable to the enforcing agency which includes all of the following shall be placed in the building:

  1. Information and/or drawings identifying the location of grab bar reinforcement in bathrooms.

The third change is an addition to the language in Section 4.410.1, 2.(a).  Operation and maintenance instructions for photovoltaic systems and electric vehicle chargers will be added to the general list of equipment and appliances so that they are not overlooked:

Rationale: HCD proposes to continue adoption of the above referenced section with new amendments. HCD proposes to add “photovoltaic systems” and “electric vehicle chargers” to Item 2, clarifying that operation and maintenance instructions for PV systems and EV chargers are required in the manual.  Currently Item 2(a) requires operation and maintenance instructions for equipment and appliances. “Photovoltaic systems” and “electric vehicle chargers” fall under this category; therefore, these are covered by Item 2(a) even though not specifically stated in the text. PV systems and EV chargers are systems that play an important role in many households in California, and their importance is increasing every day. HCD proposes to incorporate these two terms in the existing language in order to provide clarity to code users as to other systems requiring operation and maintenance instructions. There is no intended change in regulatory effect.

SECTION 4.410

BUILDING MAINTENANCE AND OPERATION

4.410.1 Operation and maintenance manual. At the time of final inspection, a manual, compact disc, web-based reference or other media acceptable to the enforcing agency which includes all of the following shall be placed in the building:

  1. Operation and maintenance instructions for the following:
  2. Equipment and appliances, including water-saving devices and systems, HVAC systems, photovoltaic systems, electric vehicle chargers, water-heating systems and other major appliances and equipment.
  3. Roof and yard drainage, including gutters and downspouts.
  4. Space conditioning systems, including condensers and air filters.
  5. Landscape irrigation systems.
  6. Water reuse systems.

These are all fairly small changes, but more and more building officials are taking a close look at the Homeowner Manual as they start to enforce CALGreen, and can delay final permitting (and therefore your ability to close on the home) until they are satisfied the manual you are giving to new home buyers satisfies Section 4.410 of the Code.

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