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:
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.
Statewide Reach Code Program: https://localenergycodes.com/
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.
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 https://hvactechday.com/
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:
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:
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 https://www.greenbiz.com/article/pge-agrees-california-should-go-all-electric-new-construction
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.
Richard Perry/The New York Times
Michael Grimm/Business Insider