Does your portfolio include buildings in California? If so, the recent changes to Title 24 – the state’s building energy efficiency standards – will likely impact your next building project.

“This is a state that’s committed to greenhouse gas reduction targets by 2020 and 2030 with an eye on net-zero energy use in the coming decade,” says Lance Collins, senior project manager for Partner Energy, a national efficiency consultancy with two offices in California. “Energy efficiency is one piece of that.”

Updates to the non-residential portion include 16 changes to the lighting requirements, many of which focus on controls. Use these five items as a springboard to greater understanding of how the revisions could affect your lighting projects.

1) Compliance Threshold
Previous versions of Title 24 required lighting alterations to comply with the most recent standards when 50% of the luminaires were replaced. That number drops to just 10% of the luminaires in the new version, consistent with changes to ASHRAE 90.1-2010.

However, if you’re only changing out lamps and ballasts, your project may be classified as a luminaire modification-in-place, according to Owen Howlett, specialist for the California Energy Commission, the state’s energy policy and planning agency. In that case, the trigger for compliance is 40 luminaires.

“For projects in which more than 40 luminaires are altered, the altered luminaires must have multi-level control if applicable, and the space as a whole must have most or all of the lighting controls that are required for new construction projects,” explains Howlett. “The retrofit requirements have been changed because code compliance in retrofits is typically cost-effective even for small projects.”

Brian Bridges, president of California-based Lighting Audit Services, opposes some of the revised lighting rules, including the lowered threshold.

“I think the new requirements will save a little more energy because of the strict rules, but the question now is, how many buildings are going to have a retrofit done?” Bridges asks. “I think that number’s going to drop because people are going to put it off.”

2) Multi-Level Controls
The requirements for controls have increased in granularity, now requiring either continuous dimming or three intermediate levels between on and off settings (the previous requirement was one intermediate level).

“Multi-level has two desirable features,” Howlett notes. “First, it allows savings to be achieved in situations where complete shut-off would be unacceptable – for instance, corridors in hotels or multifamily. Second, the effect is usually subtle and therefore less likely to result in complaints that could cause the system to be overridden by building operators. When lights switch between 50% and 100%, the effect is often almost imperceptible.”

In addition to these changes, luminaires mounted at less than 24 feet over most hardscape areas will have to include bi-level control and dim when no one is present, a new requirement, says Howlett.

The expansive mandates for lighting control can also assist with meeting plug load control stipulations, which require the same automatic shutoff function that lighting does.

“The new requirement ensures that building occupants and operators have access to both controlled and uncontrolled outlets in certain space types. We anticipate people will use the controlled outlets for computer monitors, cellphone chargers, fan heaters, and other appliances that can be switched off at night without adverse consequences,” explains Howlett. “A simple method of compliance is to have the lighting control system also operate the controlled outlets.”

Those outlets may present a problem if building owners aren’t clearly marking the controlled ones, Bridges adds. Choose controlled outlets strategically and make sure it’s easy to tell which ones will switch off in the evening.

“This could pose a big problem for offices. If you have a laptop, you have a battery, but a lot of office computers are desktop PCs,” Bridges explains. “It’s not that big of a deal if it’s a task light in your cubicle turning off, but it is if it’s your hard drive.”

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