On September 27, 2022, Santa Monica City Council adopted Ordinance #2722 that prohibits gas infrastructure (commonly referred to as “natural gas piping”) in new buildings. Santa Monica joins over 60 other cities across California in passing all-electric building codes.
Zero Emission Building Code Details:
WHERE: Any building located within the Santa Monica city limits.
WHEN: Effective January 1, 2023 (Building permit applications submitted after December 31, 2022).
WHAT: The new Santa Monica Municipal Code Chapter 8.38, entitled Zero Emission Building Code, applies to:
- New buildings: a complete demolish and rebuild, or repair, alteration, modification, addition to, or rehabilitation of an existing structure, where a demolition will occur in accordance with SMMC9.25.030(A.1) or (A.2)
- Accessory Dwelling Units: ADUs that are completely new buildings must be all-electric. ADUs that are completely within or are an addition to an existing building do not have to comply with the ordinance, unless the existing building meets the definition of new construction or meets the definition of demolition stated above.
- Additions: Additions to an existing structure do not have to comply unless the existing building meets the definition of new construction or meets the definition of demolition stated above.
Building electrification refers to the substitution of traditional gas appliances (furnaces, water heaters, cooking ranges, dryers), with clean, safe, and efficient electric alternatives such as heat pump hot water heaters and induction cooktops.
Why require all-electric buildings?
- Health: Electric appliances reduce indoor and outdoor air pollution. Burning gas for heating and cooking produces harmful indoor air pollution, which has been tied to increased risk of respiratory disease.
- Safety: All-electric buildings avoid risk of gas leaks or explosions, particularly in earthquake-prone areas, because there is no gas line connected the building.
- Environment: Methane (natural gas) is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Eliminating gas combustion is critical to reaching the City’s carbon neutrality goal.
- Cost Savings: All-electric buildings have one less utility, meaning no design or installation of gas piping or the ventilation that comes with gas appliances, which reduces capital costs.
- Resilience: When paired with solar and battery storage, all-electric buildings can be self-sufficient and avoid potential power outages.
- Comfort and Efficiency: Electric appliances for heating and cooling are much more efficient and easier to control than gas heaters and furnaces, creating more comfortable indoor air temperatures. Heat pump hot water heaters are over 300% more efficient than gas hot water heaters.
In 2019, City Council adopted a goal of reducing communitywide carbon emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality (zero carbon dioxide emissions) by 2050 or sooner. These ambitious but achievable goals initiated a range of interdepartmental City projects and programs designed to reduce the environmental impact of emissions from transportation, construction and landfill waste generation, and energy infrastructure (mostly from building emissions). In fact, 32% of emissions in Santa Monica are estimated to come from buildings, largely due to burning methane gas, commonly referred to as “natural gas,” for space and water heating demands.
To achieve carbon neutrality, net increases in carbon emissions from new construction and development must be mitigated by efficient design, construction, and use of on-site and grid-supplied renewable energy. While many new buildings are utilizing zero emissions electricity sources from rooftop solar and Clean Power Alliance, the largest source of remaining emissions in buildings is methane gas.
In May 2019, the Clean Power Alliance (CPA), the City’s Community Choice Energy entity, began procuring 100% renewable electricity for the community, accelerating the pace of renewable energy adoption locally and nearly eliminating emissions related to electricity. This, coupled with advances in appliance technologies, make a transition to an all-electric building not only viable but in most cases cost effective, particularly for new construction. All-electric buildings powered by a combination of on-site solar and 100% Green Power from the Clean Power Alliance are effectively zero emission buildings.