We are experts on the California Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Title 24, Part 6). For more than 30 years, Benningfield Group, Inc. staff have been providing the building community, the California Energy Commission, utilities, local governments and other agencies with technical assistance in development of the standards, evaluation of compliance options, efficiency program analysis, and compliance improvement. California’s Standards are the most stringent and complex in the world. We have developed systems, advocated processes and created tools to help understand and apply the code in a way that makes the process more straightforward, the building more efficient, the systems more cost effective, and the occupants more comfortable.
Energy Codes and Standards
BayREN Codes and Standards Program
The BayREN Codes and Standards program helps Bay Area counties reduce their energy usage through improved building design and construction. The collaborative program supplies local governments with the resources they need to achieve full compliance with and enforce the California Energy Code, including best practice guides, checklists, policy support, targeted training and on-site support. Benningfield Group supports the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and consulting firm BKI as a subcontractor on the project, implementing in-field and technical support.
At the start of the project, our team focused on finding ways to help jurisdictions ensure compliance. We spent hours conducting interviews, participating in ride-alongs and reviewing project plans in an effort to determine both the key challenges to enforcing the energy code training, tools and guides that would benefit each county, then tracked their effectiveness as they were implemented.
To ensure the performance of the program’s training offerings, we also conducted a region-wide survey, looking for gaps in understanding of the energy code and its enforcement. From this information, we worked with BayREN to develop several training programs that would address these specific issue areas.
Our current focus is on the development and delivery of BayREN’s extensive building department training program, with a focus on developing new classes, best practice guides and over-the-counter permit guides that focus on ease of use with minimal intrusion. These include training in niche areas requested by participating counties.
We are also currently developing ePermitting Guides, which are electronic, online versions of our printed over-the-counter permit guides. They are designed to be user friendly for enforcement personnel, installers, as well as the general public. We will continue to bring cutting edge support to the team and BayREN as they continue to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the communities being served.
Multifamily and Residential Title 24 Guides
Having an easy-to-follow compliance manual is key to helping contractors achieve compliance with California’s energy codes. However, many have found California’s Title 24, Part 6 building energy efficiency code and compliance manuals to be restrictively complex. To improve compliance, the Statewide Codes & Standards Team enlisted the help of a team of industry experts to create a more user-friendly set of guides.
Benningfield Group worked as a subcontractor to Noresco, alongside the Energy Code Ace team, California Lighting Technology Center and CEC Standards Implementation Office to create two of eight Compliance Guides that help design professionals better understand the 2016 Standards. The Multifamily and Residential Title 24 Guides outline the benefits of code compliance, the compliance process, recent code updates, compliance requirements, compliant products and systems, and strategies and scenarios to put those concepts into practice.
At Benningfield Group, we created and reviewed technical content for the residential mechanical and water heating guide, as well as the multifamily guide. We also created case study projects that highlighted key features and construction techniques relevant to high-rise and low-rise multifamily design. These studies were included in the Application Guides to illustrate the appropriate application of code to specific building types.
Energy Code Compliance Improvement Advisory Group (CIAG)
Members of the Statewide IOUs’ Codes and Standards Team (C&S Team) proposed starting an Energy Code Compliance Improvement Advisory Group (CIAG) to create a forum to cooperatively explore potential solutions to today’s significant compliance issues, including what training is needed, how to best meet those training needs, and recognizing when training is not the best or sole solution. We administered and facilitated the CIAG, a working group of building designers, energy analysts, and enforcement and policy professionals with the mission to identify and define pathways for compliance improvement. The CIAG supplied a “boots on the ground” perspective of current compliance issues and potential solutions. This was accomplished by identifying issues, exploring potential solutions and documenting them in the form of white papers. These white papers were used by the Investor-Owned Utility Code and Standards Team in their efforts to improve energy savings delivered from the standards.
Certified Energy Analyst (CEA) Program
The Certified Energy Analyst (CEA) program helps drive overall compliance with California’s Energy Code. CEA certification signifies that a consultant has the knowledge necessary to accurately apply the California Building Energy Efficiency Standards, and the commitment to providing quality service to their clients. With these points of emphasis, the CEA program has served as both an educational pathway and an incentive for energy analysts to improve their skills and knowledge of California’s Energy Code.
The backbone of this program is a set of technically challenging certification exams, which are created and maintained by a large team of subject matter experts. As project managers, we at the Benningfield Group led this team’s efforts, overseeing the process from design and implementation to maintenance. We also coordinated test administration, which included everything from selecting test sites, analyzing exam results, monitoring overall exam and individual item performance, and maintaining/updating additional items as necessary. These efforts have also been supported by our software team, who built an online exam portal and repository where candidates can upload files for grading and review, and an online item repository that is used to track the history and ownership of each exam question.
The most recent scope of the project included a review of the 2013 item bank and an update to the exam blueprint and questions to ensure a technically accurate, diversified exam was available for the 2016 Standards. The team refined the item development process and created a new online repository that provided additional layers of security to protect the data, which included restricting the viewing and editing permissions based on assignment. The new repository also included an automated exam generation feature based on specifications outlined in the exam blueprint. The exam portal was updated to accommodate uploading candidates’ multiple-choice exam scores, verifying results via callout to the repository, rescoring exams to account for dropped item(s), and an auto-generated results letter to the candidate. To support the transition of deployment activities to CABEC, a comprehensive program guide was also developed.
The results of this program are far reaching. By improving the skills, knowledge and competency of participating energy analysts, their building models and compliance documentation will likely become more consistent, clear and accurate. As a result, the design community will be more likely to understand code requirements, empowering them to design buildings that meet and exceed code. With fewer mistakes to correct, code enforcers will be able to focus on key inspection components, bringing the entire region closer to full overall compliance.
Advanced Rater Training Program
At the center of one of the most rapidly growing energy efficiency markets in the nation, Southern California’s home energy ratings industry relies on an especially well-trained community of building and energy professionals. To help them stay up-to-date with the latest industry standards and technologies, California’s Advanced Rater Training program offered energy professionals in-depth continuing education opportunities that equipped them to better implement energy efficiency programs and drive code compliance.
Offered both in-person and online, the classes gave HERS raters, energy analysts and other residential construction professionals the tools they needed to overcome a variety of technical and administrative challenges on the road to maximizing energy savings in their projects.
Our talented and experienced training staff covered a myriad of topics, some of which included modern technology, codes and installation techniques, and design approaches. In conjunction with Wollin Group, Inc., Benningfield Group staff delivered the following training sessions in the Southern California Gas Co. territory:
- Quality Insulation Installation
- Airflow Diagnostics
- Residential Ventilation
- Residential Air Sealing
- Building Pressure
- Measurement and Diagnostics
- EPA 608 Study Sessions
- ACCA Manual J/S/D HVAC Design
- Refrigerant Charge Verification Protocols
- Window Performance Essentials