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Practical advice on commercial lighting from LED retrofts to lighting design


[Title 24 revisited] How California’s building code practically impacts businesses

Posted by Jeremy Ames on


California’s Energy Code is nothing new. More commonly called Title 24 – the set of energy standards for new and upgraded buildings has been around since 1978. But even though it’s decades old, the strict regulations continue to be a difficult road for businesses to navigate, particularly when it comes to commissioning.

We dove headfirst into Title 24 years ago because it can significantly affect lighting and lighting controls. The California Energy Commission did a huge overhaul that started July 1, 2014, and a new set of rules go into effect in 2020.

Title 24 resources for lighting projects

Are these regulations actually working? In short, yes. The California Energy Commission predicts nonresidential buildings will use about 30% less energy due mainly to lighting upgrades. Because of those results, the standards are slowly infiltrating construction and retrofit projects across the country.

We’re taking a look at how these codes impact your business, and how you can keep up with all of the changes, especially when it comes to lighting.

What is Title 24?

Let’s start with a breakdown of Title 24. The code is the nation’s strictest green building standards used by the state of California. New and upgraded homes and commercial buildings must abide by this collection of energy standards.

All buildings in California must meet Title 24 requirements – not just government buildings. Does Title 24 apply to you? To put it simply – if you are modifying, moving, replacing, or disconnecting and reconnecting at least 10% or 40 light fixtures and you are pulling a permit for your project, you need to meet Title 24 building codes.


How Title 24 is enforced

Title 24 is enforced when you pull a building permit for your project and either have your plans reviewed or your building inspected.

When it comes to inspections, documentation is key. For most commercial projects, that burden falls on the electrical engineer, the contractor, and the Acceptance Test Technician (ATT). The ATT is a trained field technician who verifies the installation and operation of newly-installed equipment or construction elements of a nonresidential building. This position has been a requirement in California since 2014.

So, who is the critical person in Title 24 enforcement? The Acceptance Test Technician. This field inspector will check your Title 24 report against your construction at each inspection.

Typical Title 24 project process

Adhering to Title 24 adds an extra burden to lighting design because it requires stringent specification, qualification, and coordination at every turn.

We broke the process down to five steps, typical for a commercial project. It includes a strong coordinator – like a lighting designer – to be the liaison between several different groups.

  1. Designer meets with the business owner or architect to get an idea about expectations and basic control needs
  2. Designer develops a plan for a code-compliant system
  3. Business owner or architect coordinates with the electrical engineer, who’s responsible for incorporating documents needed to show compliance
  4. A plan reviewer confirms that acceptance testing is properly identified in the construction documents and assigned to the responsible parties
  5. The contractor or qualified third-party ATT confirms the plan and system design – and ensures installation follows design

Another goal during this process is to coordinate with the controls manufacturer and the electrical contractor (EC). The EC has to get the system up and running, and the controls manufacturer needs to be onsite soon after. Any rescheduling could result in a two to three week delay.

Documentation during these steps must be specific, clear, and accurate. This will limit mistakes and limit questions that may pop up during installation.

Title 24 commissioning: Who actually approves projects

The overall process is important, but in the end, an approved project is what we’re all focused on. After the installation process, the ATT makes a site visit and confirms the system was installed correctly and operates as designed.

The ATT also signs off on Non-Residential Control Acceptance forms, which the building inspector will review.

The final decision on the project ultimately comes down to the local municipality and the building inspector.

Title 24 impact

As a national lighting distributor, we understand that we play a critical role in the complex world of controls and Title 24 regulations. We have designers work to understand a client’s project needs, design a control system that works for them, and make sure it meets code. If you have a project you’d like our help on, don’t hesitate to contact us.

To take a closer look at Title 24 – and to make sure your lighting complies – click here.