All-Electric Buildings Are Coming to Los Angeles
In an effort to combat rising temperatures, droughts, and wildfires and move toward a more Earth-friendly, sustainable existence, the Los Angeles City Council recently approved Ordinance No. 187714, which requires all new construction in the City of Los Angeles to be fully electric, effective January 2023.
This new all-electric policy applies to all new residential and commercial buildings with few exceptions. What does this mean for Angelenos? It means no more gas-powered furnaces, stoves and cooktops, heaters, clothes dryers, water heaters, or fireplaces; new gas hookups and the piping of natural gas or propane for any of these uses are now prohibited. The city also intends to fund programs to decarbonize existing buildings, particularly those in low-income areas.
The new LA building ordinance reflects the city’s efforts to do its part in fighting the climate crisis by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality. With an aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% below 1990 levels by 2025, the city’s new construction all-electric policy is expected to help LA reach its goal of becoming carbon neutral by the year 2050.
Exceptions to the LA’s All-Electric New Construction Policy
The new ordinance does allow exceptions, such as affordable housing projects, if the building permit application was submitted and all associated fees paid before January 1, 2023. There are also exemptions for cooking in commercial facilities and some industrial uses of process gas. However, any new construction that claims an exemption must ensure that the building in question is electric-ready for energy transitions in the future.
Benefits of All-Electric Buildings
All-electric new construction offers many benefits to builders, homeowners, and the community at large. A few benefits include the following:
- Design Flexibility: All-electric homes do not require a gas line, which allows for more flexibility in designing home layouts, often making construction simpler and less expensive.
- Lower Construction Costs: Fully-electric single-family homes built to the same base code as mixed-fuel homes are, on average, cheaper to build. Savings range from approximately $8000 to $31,000 for an average single-family home.
- Lower Construction Labor Costs: Installing gas infrastructure is not cheap or easy. In addition to the hassle of dealing with the gas utility to establish new services, there are expenses related to road closures, trenching, pipe installation, backfilling, inspections, and road repair.
- Energy Efficiency: All-electric homes are more energy-efficient than homes that use natural gas or propane, reducing overall energy consumption and costs.
- Lower Utility Bills: Electric energy costs are typically lower than gas or oil, so all-electric homes can help reduce monthly energy costs for many homeowners.
- Health and Safety: All-electric heating systems do not produce byproducts like carbon monoxide or other harmful pollutants, improving indoor air quality and reducing health risks.
- Reduced Carbon Footprint: Fully-electric homes are powered exclusively by electricity, which can come from renewable energy sources like solar or wind power. This helps reduce the home’s carbon footprint and contributes to a more sustainable, planet-friendly future.
Challenges of All-Electric Buildings
There are, of course, some drawbacks associated with the construction of fully-electric new buildings. Some challenges include:
- Complete Reliance on the Electricity Grid: In most cases, this means relying on state infrastructure for one’s sole power source. Being reliant on only one energy source can make power failures/blackouts due to bad weather or for other reasons especially difficult.
- Expensive Equipment: All-electric systems and appliances are generally safer and more eco-friendly but often come with a higher price tag than their gas-powered counterparts. This added cost might offset the savings gained from not having to install gas infrastructure during the construction phase.
- Mixed-Fuel Increases Home Value: While installing gas infrastructure involves additional cost and overhead, a mixed-fuel system is considered an amenity that adds value. Homes equipped with natural gas can see a 5% to 10% increase in their resale value compared with similar homes that are all-electric.
All-Electric Buildings in Los Angeles: The Future Is Now
By implementing an all-electric policy for new construction, the City of Los Angeles has taken a bold step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting the climate crisis. Despite some challenges – higher upfront costs for all-electric appliances and systems, potential limitations on certain appliances, complete reliance on only one energy source, and the need for more electrical infrastructure to meet increasing demand – the benefits are hard to ignore. Some of the many advantages of all-electric buildings include lower construction costs, improved health and safety, lower carbon emissions, and lower utility bills for homeowners. Overall, this new policy represents a significant move toward a more sustainable, planet-friendly future for LA and serves as a model for other cities to follow.
RLB Architecture is a high-end architecture and design firm that provides custom design, planning, drafting, and construction administration services for projects in the Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Malibu, Santa Monica, and other Westside communities. Richard L. Blumenberg is the proprietor.
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