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Why Californians Should Hire Energy Consultants to Increase Design Options & Find Long-term Savings

All newly constructed buildings in California must comply with Title 24, or the California Building Standards Code. While a building can be designed to comply with these codes without the help of an energy consultant, hiring a technology consulting firm that specializes in energy both opens up additional design options and provides potential long-term savings. If you're constructing a commercial building in California, here's why you may want to pay an energy consulting firm to help you design a building that's Title 24-compliant.

The Prescriptive Method of Designing Title 24-Compliant Buildings

Architects and engineers can design buildings that meet the requirements of the California Building Standards Code by adhering to specific prescribed regulations. The code includes a litany of stipulations, detailing everything from the minimum level of insulation to percentage of windows facing west. As long as a building's design meets all of these prescribed requirements, it will be approved as Title 24-compliant.

Thus, while detailed, the prescribed method of designing a Title 24-compliant building is straightforward. Architects and engineers can go through the requirements and create a design that will be compliant without any advanced knowledge of the energy industry. They must, however, work within the confines of the prescribed requirements, which can be limiting.

The Performance Method of Designing Title 24-Compliant Buildings

Energy consulting firms are able to use a different method to design Title 24-compliant buildings. The method they use is called the performance method.

Like the prescription method, the performance method includes detailed requirements that must be met. The performance method's requirements, however, don't stipulate what types of building materials must be used or where features must be placed. Instead, they focus on the overall energy performance of the building, hence the method's name.

To determine a building's overall energy efficiency, energy consulting firms use complex computer models that architects and engineers who don't specialize in the energy industry often don't have.

The Freeing Advantage of the Performance Method

The performance method is freeing, although more complex. Because energy consulting firms don't have to heed individual building material requirements, they're free to adjust them as necessary as long as the building's overall energy efficiency isn't sacrificed.

For instance, westward-facing windows heat up buildings and increase cooling costs during California's hot and sunny afternoons, which is why the number of west-facing windows is limited in the prescriptive method. An energy consulting firm can include more of these, though, as long as they show that other steps are being taken to counteract the increased cooling cost. Perhaps additional insulation could be used to offset the cooling costs.

As this example shows, the performance method of seeking Title 24 compliance opens up many new design possibilities. Energy consultants who are familiar with all of the intricacies of a building's overall energy efficiency are often able to compensate for extremely inefficient features, such as all-glass walls, by installing other highly efficient features, like solar panels on roofs.

The Benefit of Running Multiple Computer Models

The performance method necessitates using computer simulations to project a building's overall energy efficiency. The prescriptive model ensures a basic level of efficiency, but no programs are run to find the most efficient design. Energy consulting firms that used the performance method, though, often run many simulations and will be able to show you which one is the most efficient of all the possible designs.

Finding the most energy-efficient design possible is especially useful in commercial construction. Because commercial buildings tend to be larger than residential homes, companies stand to save more on energy. Depending on the commercial building you're constructing, the monthly energy savings that running computer models provides could be significant -- and you'll enjoy them for months and years to come.

Hiring resources like Opportune energy consultants might increase the cost of your construction project, but it'll give you more design options and help you reduce the building's energy costs. The upfront investment will be worth it every time you see your building and every time you receive a utility bill.