California's Plan to Make New Buildings Greener Will Raise Costs

  • August 31, 2021
  • The New York Times
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In the New York Times story, California’s Plan to Make New Buildings Greener Will Also Raise Costs, DAHLIN Principal and Senior Architect Don Ruthroff discusses the impact.

If you have a New York Times subscription, you can access the full article here. For the benefit of our clients without subscriptions, we have summarized Don Ruthroff's comments on the subject.

State Regulators updated California's building code to require new homes and commercial buildings to have solar panels and batteries and the wiring needed to switch from heaters that burn natural gas to heat pumps that run on electricity. Some experts fear that the sweeping update which will go into effect in 2023, could be too much too quickly. With demand for high housing coupled with high construction costs, many experts fear that it could affect middle- and lower-income families' ability to purchase a home.

"You're going to see the impact in office rents. You're going to see it in the cost of the milk in your grocery store," said Donald J. Ruthroff, a principal at Dahlin Group Architecture Planning in Pleasanton, Calif. "There's no question this is going to impact prices across the board."

The goal of the code update is to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of fossil fuels by replacing them with renewable sources starting with new construction.

Don Ruthroff said the State's approach to focus on new homes made sense because it is "the low-hanging fruit." But he added that there was only so much to be gained from imposing such requirements on new buildings since they are already much better insulated and have more advanced appliances and heating and cooling equipment than older homes.

Regulators in California acknowledged that the building code changes could raise construction costs but agreed that the modifications will save money over time. Plus, with destruction from wildfires, heat waves and other extreme weather linked to climate change add up to billions of dollars.

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