Choosing Mixed Fuels or All-Electric Under San Jose’s Reach Code

San Jose’s newly adopted Reach Code presents a challenge for high-rise multi-family residential developers: build all-electric or stay with “mixed-fuel” (gas and electric). Intending to reduce carbon emissions across all new and renovation projects, the Reach Code all but bans gas in new residential buildings. However, for now, San Jose’s Reach Code continues to allow gas in high-rise multi-family residential buildings, subject to some penalties. The most significant of which is a higher baseline energy performance standard (6% margin above typical California Energy Code). With the bar set higher, potentially increasing costs for the building envelope, HVAC, and lighting systems, developers must consider the following in deciding whether to adopt an all-electric design:

  • Understand What You Need Gas For, anyway: Most of the equipment you need gas for, including clothes drying and water heating) can now be electric, without sacrificing either efficiency or cost. We used to believe that gas equipment was “better” than electric, but product improvements have all but eliminated that myth. The exception -and still subject to debate–is the use of gas-fired stoves in commercial kitchens. This choice has operational implications. It might even affect your menu! Meanwhile, there is evidence that a kitchen without gas is cheaper and safer to operate, and healthier for building occupants.
  • Electrical Power Infrastructure First Costs Are the Same: The Reach Code requires you to install an electrical service sufficient to supply an all-electric building now or later, regardless of your current fuel choices. Using gas does not reduce the size or the cost of the electrical infrastructure.
  • Total Utility Infrastructure First Costs Are Higher for Mixed Fuels: Having gas in a building requires dual infrastructure, hence higher costs.
  • More Floor Area Required for Infrastructure and Equipment: Regardless of fuel choices, you will need to commit more space for larger transformers and other equipment. Electric water heaters are larger than gas, and water storage tanks are required to accompany electric heat pump water heaters. This equipment can be located on the roof.
  • Grid Electricity Costs Are High; PV’s Can Offset That: Rate-based utility costs for all-electric can be substantially higher unless coupled with a robust solar PV system. Do not forget that you will always have outlets, and lights so there is no meaningful escape from your electricity bill without solar.

Recognize that to combat climate change, San Jose, like jurisdictions everywhere, is heading in the direction of eliminating gas service. After August 1, 2021, all new developments will have to be all-electric, without the gas option. A commercial kitchen is the only remaining exception.

Choosing gas now only delays the inevitable switch to all-electric in the future.


You can check out these great resources to help you evaluate options thoughtfully.

San Jose Reach Code Summary:

Statewide Reach Code Program:

San Mateo-Foster City School District to Act on Aedis Architects’ Recommendations Regarding HVAC and Air Filtration Improvements

On January 21, 2021, Aedis Architects presented to the San Mateo-Foster City School District its “HVAC & Air Infiltration Implementation Study”. The Board of Trustees accepted Aedis’ recommendations and unleashed nearly $130 million of Measure T funds to upgrade HVAC and air filtration in the District’s 21 schools. This work is the key to improving the comfort, health, and safety of District indoor environments in a pandemic and post-pandemic era. These recommendations also move the District toward its Board-mandated strategic objective goal: zero-net-energy.

The Aedis-led study team, which included Cypress Engineering Group and American Consulting Engineers-Electrical Inc. worked closely with the District’s maintenance staff to inventory the mechanical and electrical systems at each school. The process was fast-tracked due to the urgent need to reopen schools in the COVID-19 environment. The team evaluated an extensive range of options, factoring in the schedule, cost, energy efficiency, site constraints, future construction plans, and electrical load requirements.

Aedis completed the Study in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as well as the increasingly frequent climate-change-related heat waves and wildfires that have ravaged California in recent years. It outlined filtration options for indoor air quality (IAQ), considering recommendations issued in ASHRAE guidelines, the National Energy Management Institute, and other white papers published regarding IAQ, ventilation, and the COVID-19 virus. The recommendations included upgrading filtration to ASHRAE recommended MERV 13, now a California Energy Code requirement. Other technologies such as needlepoint bipolar ionization and UV-C lights were also explored, with bipolar ionization recommended to be used on a limited basis to supplement where MERV-13 is not feasible. The Study confirmed that the District-initiated installation of portable air purifiers equipped with HEPA filters for fine particle filtration was an appropriate measure to supplement built-in air filtration.

We recognize and applaud the San Mateo-Foster City School District’s leadership in transforming indoor environments to cope with the effects of the pandemic and climate change. We want to especially thank Patrick Gaffney, Chief Business Officer, Tish Busselle, Advisor to the Superintendent, and Joel Cadiz, Former Director of Facilities, who were instrumental in supporting the creation of the report and providing us with meaningful and timely feedback.

HVAC Tech Day

Today is National HVAC Tech Day! This unsung group of pandemic heroes has earned our gratitude for their hard work keeping us cool in the summer, warm in the cooped-up winters, and the air fresh all year round. Now, at the close of the pandemic, they are working tirelessly to help reopen our schools. Soon, HVAC techs will be working at the San Mateo Foster City School District. The HVAC Upgrade Project will efficiently provide a healthy, comfortable environment for all the students and staff of the district. #NationalHVACTechDay #UnsungHeroes #LastingPositiveImpact #SchoolDesign #K12Design


For more information, you can visit their official website at

The Impact of Biophilic Learning Spaces

E.O. Wilson, author of Biophilia (1984) defined biophilia as “the innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes”. The subject of his work has inspired countless scholarly articles, research in the ensuing years, and a whole approach to environmental design. With this post we continue our advocacy for the mainstreaming of biophilic design principles into the design of every occupied space—where we live, where we learn and where we work. Here is a study conducted by some of the field’s foremost experts that examines how biophilic design contributes to student stress reduction, and improved learning outcomes.
For the full article, click here.

Electrify commercial kitchens now to save your money, your health, and your planet

John Diffenderfer, Aedis Architects
July 2021


The road to reversing climate change is bumpy and the destination will be arrived at through both new behaviors and new technology. We will all have to trade in some habits and beliefs for some new and possibly uncomfortable ideas. As cities, counties and the states consider legislation to mandate the elimination of gas infrastructure in new construction, many commercial industries and their architects, engineers, developers, and builders are investigating the impact these new rules will have on their operations. As an architect that has designed several Zero Net Energy/Emissions buildings, I can unequivocally declare that the technology exists to decarbonize today, and it has existed for quite some time. So, what is the hold up? Short answer: economics and, simply put, change is hard.

One area that has felt heat in the debate recently is the commercial kitchen industry. The basic technology of the commercial kitchen has not really changed in the last half century, and it continues to be an unhealthy and dangerous place. Nevertheless, there is a lot of tradition back there behind the service counters and swinging doors. Not all traditions are bad, especially when perfecting a great meal, but preconceptions that limit change for the better ought to be questioned.

Need To Know:

  1. The California Energy Commission is considering its 2022 code cycle revisions to the California Energy Code which include the banning of new gas connections to all new construction (CA added a quarter of a million new gas customers to the State since 2013.
  2. Fossil fuel kitchen appliances emit pollutants that are harmful to your health. 12 million Californians with gas stoves are breathing NO2 levels above levels that would be illegal outdoors, and nearly 2 million are breathing illegal levels of carbon monoxide.
  3. 30 cities and counties in California adopted local building codes and ordinances encouraging all-electric new construction, with 50 more considering it.
  4. PG&E, California’s largest rate-payer utility, serving 40% of the State’s gas customers, has formally written in support of the CEC’s proposed energy code changes, including electrification of new construction.

The conclusion from the facts above is that electrification is coming, and it is a good thing, both for the environment, and for our health. I recognize that from some perspectives it is does not always seem so. It will mean capital investment, and it will mean operational change. What about all the new equipment we must buy? Will I have to retrain my crew, learn new methods, and create new menus? One large kitchen manager I spoke to declared, “The challenge is that it’s a different way of cooking and it takes getting used to”. By 2035, all kitchens will be electric, gas will not be allowed, so it is not a matter of if, but when. My contention is that once the transition has been made, the worries will be distant memories, and we may even chuckle at the thought of the arguments we once made.

PG&E established the Food Service Technology Center more than three decades ago to promote energy efficiency in kitchen design. It is a place to test-drive kitchen equipment before you buy, and the Center offers seminars, reports, and consulting to operators and designers. There is myth that persists claiming that gas stovetops and ovens are preferred by chefs because they heat faster and more evenly than electric. It turns out that with a little digging, this is not entirely true. I found a 2011 video where Gordon Ramsey admits that he liked both technologies, and an article where Bruce Mattel of the Culinary Institute of America is quoted saying that he found them to be completely comparable. Most equipment today is available in a gas or electric version, with no change needed in cooking techniques. The real exception is the gas stove. Here, we encounter the “different ways of cooking” that some resist, even though induction stoves a) do not get (nearly as) hot or heat the room, b) cost about the same, less when you consider the gas piping, and c) do not emit the NO2 and CO that is so harmful.  Aedis works with many California School Districts, and student and staff health is a significant economic factor in our schools:  when a child stays home, the school loses “ADA” (average daily attendance) which directly affects operational funding. Studies have shown that children are even more sensitive to the effects of pollutants from gas cooking than adults. A 2013 study in the International Journal of Epidemiology showed that children living in a home with a gas cooking stove have a 42% increase of current asthma risk, and 24% increase of asthma in their lifetime.


“Powerful, immediate, precise, effective, practical … the qualities of induction”, Author/Chef Thierry Molinengo, Paris.


Induction cooking is inherently safer because there is no open flame and are not left “hot” when not in active use. There are no gas leaks, and spilled oil will not lead to a bigger fire. Speaking of spills, clean-up is easier. The biggest downside: you (may) have to buy new pots and pans. Your cookware must have magnetic properties, like cast iron (enameled) and stainless steel. Le Creuset, All-Clad, and many others make induction-ready cookware. Some chefs are accepting the challenge of the all-electric kitchen. “What I realized when working with induction was that there were some things that we did in the traditional kitchen that was just wasteful,” says Chef Chris Galarza, the owner and culinary sustainability consultant for Forward Dining Solutions LLC. Chris helped build and run the Chatham University Eden Hall’s all-electric kitchen (the world’s first ZNE campus). “[Traditionally,] when I know something off the line is coming for me to sauté eventually, I’ll have pans on the burners on low, so they are already hot, and I am all ready to go.” With induction cooking, Chris learned that he just did not need to do that. With a cold pan, he can still cook faster than the chef with the preheated pans – AND he is able to demonstrate savings on fuel, and cooling costs. At Eden Hall, the ventilation systems are controlled and interconnected with the cooktops, so they only run when cooking is happening. Energy AND air quality are monitored in real time. Galarza recognized a 9-month payback, despite spending 3 times the first cost of a traditional kitchen. He credits reduced energy savings and improved operational efficiency.

If You Operate a Commercial Kitchen:

  • Specify electric equipment for everything — If you are considering building a new commercial kitchen or renovating an existing one soon, avoid the gas fired equipment and opt instead for electric alternatives (water heaters, ovens, and induction stoves, for instance).
  • Think creatively about efficiency and sequencing – All chefs learn the term “mise en place”, which means to get things set up before you cook. With induction cooking, this becomes a must-do activity. Old habits can be hard to break, but chefs are used to learning new tricks whenever they enter a new environment, so this should not be any different.
  • Upgrade your electrical panels – Sooner or later, you will be replacing your equipment, or doing a deeper modernization on your facility. When you opt for electric equipment, your load will go up, and this may exceed your capacity. Upgrading your panels requires a lengthy application process through your local jurisdiction, and a lengthier one through your utility company. Hire a consultant, do the calculations, and start now.

When Robert Kenny, Vice President of PG&E, wrote “PG&E believes a multi-faceted approach is needed to cost-effectively achieve California’s broader economy wide long-term GHG reduction objectives” he recognized that it is not just the job of the utility company and the regulators to policy our way out of climate catastrophe danger, but a job for all of us. We must look at what we accept as true and inviolable and consider that there could be another way to operate. Frankly, as an unsinkable optimist, I prefer to think of this as an opportunity to invent something new: a process or product. Doesn’t that sound like more fun, anyway?



GreenePrincipal, S. (n.d.). PG&E agrees: California should go all-electric in new construction. Retrieved January 02, 2021, from

Lin W, Brunekreef B, Gehring, U. Meta-analysis of the effects of indoor nitrogen dioxide and gas cooking on asthma and wheeze in children. Int J Epidemiol. 2013; 42:1724–1737.

Photo Credits:

Liz Seabrook

Richard Perry/The New York Times

Michael Grimm/Business Insider