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Dramatic Second-Story Addition: Another Tough Compliance Problem Solved

Dramatic Second-Story Addition: Another Tough Compliance Problem Solved

Posted on 06. Feb, 2012 by .

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In early October, I got a call from Steven House of House+House Architects. They were doing a remodel in Marin and needed our Title 24 energy services. House+House is an award-winning firm whose focus is mainly single-family custom home design. Their work  is characterized by a daring contemporary sensibility, and they have a large body of work both within California and also in Mexico.

So what do daring designs have to do with Title 24 energy compliance? Well, they need a lot of special attention because they often feature expansive windows to celebrate the crisp and brilliant California sunshine, and in the North Bay area, they let in gorgeous views as well. Vaulted ceilings, also a common design feature, can require special attention to the roof assembly to ensure that there’s enough space to fit the necessary amount of insulation.

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The Curious Case of Dr. X and the Burlingame Green Building Ordinance

The Curious Case of Dr. X and the Burlingame Green Building Ordinance

Posted on 30. Jan, 2012 by .

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“People don’t understand the impact of ‘beyond compliance’ and what it requires,” said Mark English, as we were discussing Title 24 energy compliance for various types of custom home designs and remodels. “They don’t understand the difficulty of getting even very small additions to comply – and if they have to meet local green building ordinances that require exceeding Title 24 by 15% or more, it’s even more challenging.”

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QII HERS Credit Now Allows Open Cell Spray Foam

QII HERS Credit Now Allows Open Cell Spray Foam

Posted on 19. Dec, 2011 by .

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This news flash about a seemingly obscure topic is of immediate importance to all our architect Title 24 clients -and it’s good news for a change. The Quality of Insulation Installation credit is a HERS test that can help design projects to achieve Title 24 energy compliance, and we’ve had a couple of nasty surprises with it in the past.

Apparently, up until around yesterday, the California Energy Commission did not officially recognize the QII test as valid for open-cell spray foam. Our insulation expert James Morshead of SDI Insulation actually sent me an urgent email yesterday with the news, saying:

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Living Roofs on Private Homes: A Practical Guide

Living Roofs on Private Homes: A Practical Guide

Posted on 21. Oct, 2011 by .

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Just last month, we interviewed the landscape architecture firm Arterra LLP on our sister blog, The Architect’s Take. Kate Stickley and Vera Gates were so much fun that I thought I’d ask them about Living Roofs – not exactly energy compliance, but a “green building” topic nonetheless. Turns out they’ve done several, and as landscape architects, they bring an artistry and a focus on creating a meaningful sense of place… it’s not just a functional piece of “turf” for a corporate building, where no one ever actually goes up there to enjoy it.

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Water Heating Efficiency and Residential Title 24 Compliance

Water Heating Efficiency and Residential Title 24 Compliance

Posted on 29. Sep, 2011 by .

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OK, I’m the first to admit that I know next to nothing about water heaters. Aren’t they those white cylinders that live in garages, as far as possible from the kitchen and the shower? Well… yes and no. In our Title 24 work, which is architect-designed custom single-family projects, the water heater is usually the last thing on anyone’s mind. However, on many of our analysis projects, the quickest, cheapest way to comply with California’s stringent energy-efficiency requirements has been to upgrade the water heater – and sometimes, to include a solar hot water credit.

This article explains how to assess water heater efficiency numbers, including the use of a handy lookup database at the California Energy Center’s web site.

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CalCERTS Registry Now Required for All Residential Projects

CalCERTS Registry Now Required for All Residential Projects

Posted on 15. Sep, 2011 by .

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As most of our readers now know, California’s energy code got a lot stricter in January of 2010. Increasingly, HERS tests are required to comply, even for custom residential projects. HERS tests are special third-party field inspections for things like ductwork, insulation, and air-conditioner efficiency. These tests are called out on the Title 24 energy compliance report, also known as the CF-1R. This energy report must be included on all Building Department submittals statewide throughout California to obtain a building permit. The energy report is then reviewed as part of the plan check process.

And now, a new requirement, or really an old one that’s just now being enforced: All CF-1R reports that call for a HERS test must be officially “registered”. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Plan checkers are starting to kick back custom residential submittals if they don’t see a CalCERTS watermark on the energy report.

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LEED for Homes: Is It Worth It?

LEED for Homes: Is It Worth It?

Posted on 05. Jul, 2011 by .

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Every so often at the AIA-San Francisco Small Firms group, we debate amongst ourselves whether getting our residential projects LEED certified is worth the effort. For most of us, with one-off custom residential new homes or remodels, the answer is no – too cumbersome and expensive. If someone is just looking for “green certification” for a California home project, the GreenPoint Rated system from BuildItGreen is a lot more flexible and user-friendly. However, there are a few architects who’ve really made a big push towards LEED certification on some of their homes. So, what are they getting out of it? How do you decide whether to go for GreenPoints or LEED, and what needs to happen with LEED for the process to go smoothly?

(Home shown above is designed by Sparano + Moody Architecture, and has earned LEED Silver certification. But LEED homes don’t all have to be in the wilderness, either.)

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CALGreen, GreenPoints, and Title 24 – What’s the Deal?

CALGreen, GreenPoints, and Title 24 – What’s the Deal?

Posted on 31. May, 2011 by .

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California’s Green Building code went into effect this last January, and recently we had questions from another residential designer about CALGreen – how’s it different from GreenPoint Rating, how does it fit in with Title 24 energy standards, how it works. To answer his questions, I read through the code manual. In addition to the CALGreen code book itself, there’s a very handy cheat sheet that compares CALGreen, GreenPoints, and LEED, for low-rise residential projects. (This version’s probably a little out of date, being from 2010, but you get the idea.) The Q&A below is based partly on that conversation, with special thanks to Doug Hensel of the California Department of Housing and Community Development, who reviewed a draft of this article.

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The Devil is in the Details – Energy Model for Home with Custom Field Built Windows

The Devil is in the Details – Energy Model for Home with Custom Field Built Windows

Posted on 31. May, 2011 by .

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Remember last week, when we were talking about glass houses? Well, here’s another Title 24 case study on a 4,500 SF house, also from Swatt|Miers Architects. This house had almost 60% glazing to floor area, much of it custom built on site: 564 square feet of single paned butt glazed corner windows, 540 square feet of frameless glazing, a steel framed window, a 30 foot tall translucent window in a stair tower, 300 square feet of skylights, and a custom built wood screen interspersed with glass panels. That’s almost 2,700 square feet of glass.

And, to make the challenge that much more… piquant… it was in California climate zone 2 (Sonoma – HOT)… AND, they needed to beat California’s Title 24 energy standard by 15% because of local ordinances. It was the combination of all that single glazed area with the climate zone that concerned us the most. But, we had a reputation to maintain, and our motto to designers was, “We’ll never tell you that you have to shrink your windows.”

(Above image courtesy Swatt|Miers Architects.)

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