Reach Code FAQs
On January 25, 2022, Town Council directed Town staff to initiate a request for proposals for a consultant to facilitate a process of considering a “building reach code’ for Truckee. Over the coming months the Town will work with a stakeholder advisory committee and conduct public outreach to inform this process. Read on for more information about what reach codes are and why they are under consideration.
What is a reach code?
A reach code is a law adopted by a local government that creates higher building energy performance standards than those in the State building code. Typically, reach codes apply to residential or nonresidential new construction and sometimes to major renovations or additions. In some cases, specific measures may apply to existing buildings. Reach codes can target energy efficiency, energy storage, photovoltaics (PV), electric vehicle (EV) readiness, water efficiency, or existing building energy upgrades.
The requirements for a reach code are that they:
1) reduce building energy use
2) are cost effective. This means that the measures required in the reach code must pay for themselves over their lifetime.
3) are more restrictive than the state code
4) are re-adopted when the building code is updated every three years
Why is Truckee considering a reach code?
The primary goals of the reach code are to cost-effectively reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to improve home air quality and public health. In 2019, the General Plan Advisory Committee created a Climate Action Subcommittee to help guide the creation of policies for Truckee’s Climate Action Plan. Discussions from these subcommittee meetings helped create and prioritize policies and actions related to transportation, land use, energy use, and waste. Using data from Truckee’s 2016 GHG emissions inventory, the Subcommittee noted that emissions from building energy use account for 59% of Truckee’s total community emissions. Thus, the CAP Subcommittee recommended developing a reach code to improve the energy efficiency of our building stock, reduce GHG emissions, and improve indoor air quality through use of efficient, non-polluting appliances.
What kinds of reach codes are there?
There are many types of reach codes. Some are prescriptive, meaning they require the implementation of specific measures (for example, the installation of PV systems on new residential construction) and some are performance based, meaning they require new construction to perform more efficiently than the State code, but allow for substantial flexibility in how this is achieved. Some reach codes require all-electric construction – usually with exemptions – and some allow for the continued use of fuels like natural gas and propane. Reach codes that affect building energy efficiencies remain the most common kind (and may include measures like duct sealing, attic insulation, electrification), though some local governments have adopted measures that make GHG reductions possible but do not specifically address energy efficiency. These include electric vehicle readiness, electric pre-wiring or panel requirements, indoor/outdoor water efficiency requirements and energy audits or benchmarking.
How will the Town develop the reach code?
The Town is currently reviewing consultant proposals and will select a firm by April. From there, the Town will assemble a Stakeholder Advisory Committee composed of Staff, Councilmembers, and representatives from the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe (CATT), Liberty Utilities, TDPUD, Sierra Community House, and community members with expertise in mechanical and electrical engineering. The Committee will meet several times over the coming months to help guide the development of the potential codes. There will be opportunities for broader public input through public opinion surveys, public hearings and workshops.
Contracting with a consultant does not mean that the adoption of a reach code is inevitable, however. Through outreach and research, the consultant will help the Town determine if a reach code makes sense for Truckee, and if so, what kind. Meanwhile, the Town will continue to develop programs that enhance access to and funding for energy efficiency tools and programs.
Why are we doing this now?
The California State Building Codes are updated every three years. The 2022 updates will go into effect in January 2023, and the most streamlined approach is to implement the reach code in tandem with this update. Additionally, the Town needs to move urgently to reach its GHG emission targets and waiting longer will require that more aggressive action is taken down the line.
How does the Town plan to improve the power grid to handle increased electric load as property owners increasingly adopt electric appliances?
The Truckee Donner Public Utility District’s (TDPUD) current load capacity is approximately 57MW, and they typically see peak demand (Christmas and New Year Holiday Weekends) reach a maximum of 36MW. This leaves room for relatively significant load growth, however the TDPUD is also engaged in an electrification and resource planning study to address the long-term load forecasts and enhance resiliency.
Doesn’t electricity create emissions too?
Yes, the source of electricity generation determines the amount and intensity of emissions produced. The TDPUD, which serves the majority of Truckee, provides electricity that is currently 60-65% renewable and will be 70-75% renewable by the end of the year. These renewable sources include wind, solar, biomass, and hydroelectric. Liberty Utilities, which serves about 5% of the Truckee population, provides electricity that is at least 33% renewable. Neither utility procures electricity from coal. Nationally, only 20% of electricity came from renewable sources in 2020, putting Truckee ahead of the curve. As our utilities move toward sourcing 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources, emissions associated with electricity use will approach zero.
Will the code create additional construction costs?
At this time, we do not know what the reach code would contain and cannot say how it would impact construction costs. However, it is worth emphasizing that the reach codes must be cost-effective in order to gain approval from the California Energy Commission. This means that although certain technologies will require an up-front cost, but they will pay for themselves over time. TDPUD, Liberty Utilities, and the State are also providing incentives for energy efficient technology. Click here for more information on rebates.