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Green Technology Building Code Changes Approved For San Diego County

Credit: Flickr / Elliott Brown

A roof with solar panels installed is shown in this undated photograph.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors directed its staff Wednesday to draft detailed building code amendments designed to promote energy efficiency in new homes.

The board asked county staff in April to research possible code updates that would require builders to incorporate green technologies into new housing projects.

The supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of staff recommendations have builders:

— Install electrical panels large enough to accommodate future improvements.

— Put in a conduit that could be used for future roof-mounted solar panels.

— Reserve space on south-facing roofs where solar panels might be added later.

— Include another conduit that would run to the garage and be used for an electric vehicle charging station.

The board, however, did not move forward with suggestions to have builders set up plumbing for solar water heaters and gray water recycling systems. Supervisor Bill Horn cast the dissenting vote.

According to a staff report, the prospective mandates could add $2,300 to the cost of a new house but would lead to savings of about the same amount on energy bills within 18 months. Additionally, it is far less expensive to pre-wire a house during construction than to retrofit later, the report says.

The county already offers a series of green energy incentives, including reduced permit fees and expedited processing, fee waivers for residential solar projects, and online permitting.

County officials said they developed the recommendations after meeting with stakeholder groups and researching building codes in 20 other jurisdictions.

Updated state energy conservation standards went into effect last month, requiring new construction to be 25 percent more efficient than housing built six years ago.

If the board approves the package, staff would draft detailed building code amendments and return early next year to get them adopted.

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