Marin County will enact ‘all-electric building’ rules for new construction

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California Construction News staff writer

Officials in Marin County say they support an ordinance that would require that all new residential and commercial construction in Marin be all-electric beginning Jan. 1.

New green building requirements would exceed current state standards.

“This is really an incremental step but it is a significant one,” Sarah Jones, assistant director of the Marin County Community Development Agency, told supervisors at a meeting last week. “It is allowing for transformation of the greenhouse gas profile of our building stock over time. In doing this, we are continuing to plan for the future and continuing our transition to a de-carbonized building environment.”

The ordinance, including provisions requiring stronger energy efficiency for additions, alterations and remodels and easier access to electric vehicle charging stations in multifamily housing will be voted on Nov. 15.

Natural gas accounted for 26% of Marin’s countywide greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, second only to transportation, which caused 56% of the county’s emissions.

Stricter rules for additions, alterations and remodels would apply to single-family homes over 750 square feet. Owners would be required to implement additional energy efficiency and electrifications beyond state code; an would be allowed to choose from a menu of energy efficiency and electrification measures.

The county’s ordinance also would go farther than the state in requiring 15% of new multifamily units with parking spaces have level 2 charging stations while the state is requiring that only 5% of multifamily units with parking spaces be equipped with level 2 chargers. Also, 85% of units in multifamily developments must have access to lower-power level 2 electric vehicle charging stations.

The county’s Community Development Agency is working with Marin cities and towns in an effort to get them to develop similar policies. As of August, 60 California jurisdictions, including Fairfax and San Anselmo, had adopted ordinances requiring all-electric buildings for new construction.

Natural gas accounted for 26% of Marin’s countywide greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, second only to transportation, which caused 56% of the county’s emissions.

In June, the Marin County Civil Grand Jury issued a report recommending that local governments collaborate to develop a comprehensive, countywide building electrification plan by Jan. 1, 2024.

Several members of the public spoke at the Oct. 18 meeting.

“We urge you to take meaningful climate action with one of the only tools that local governments have,” said Mark Palmer, a member of the Sausalito Sustainability Commission, “and that is the building codes.”

Brian Reyes, Marin County sustainability planner, said the county conducted an online survey to gauge public reaction to the changes contained in the ordinance.

Marin County’s climate action plan requires the board to consider adopting an ordinance in 2024 that would require homeowners to replace natural gas appliances — such as hot water heaters, stoves, cooktops and clothes dryers — with high-efficiency electric appliances at time of replacement “where feasible.”

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