Jan 26 2020

OPINION: Climate Crisis and Piedmont Building Code Changes ?

In the face of the deepening climate crisis, I’d like to draw readers’ attention to three important City-wide workshops here in Piedmont.

While building codes may seem like a dry topic, California cities can play an important role in reducing our carbon emissions by adopting local codes that “reach” beyond the basics of the California building codes. As a primarily residential community with no industry and few businesses, Piedmont will not be able to meet California’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets without developing policies that promote the decarbonization of our existing housing stock.  This means encouraging and, in certain cases, requiring the conversion of appliances that are currently powered by fossil fuels (especially natural gas) to high-efficiency appliances powered by electricity, as well as encouraging and sometimes requiring solar and energy efficiency measures.

Thanks to East Bay Community Energy, most of us are already purchasing electricity that is from 100% renewable sources. But now we need to actively encourage the replacement of conventional natural gas-powered furnaces and water heaters with high-efficiency electric heat pumps, gas stoves with induction ranges, gas-powered clothes dryers with efficient electric dryers, and so on. Building codes can have a role in this, as well as education, incentives and other policies.

Please come weigh in on what you think would be a good path forward for Piedmont, one that balances the needs of residents and commercial properties with the imperative of phasing out the use of natural gas and other greenhouse gas emitting substances.

The events are:

1) A Community Forum aimed at residents, on Wednesday, January 29th from 6:30-8:30 pm at the Community Hall;

2) Two workshops aimed at building industry professionals (contractors, real estate agents, etc.), on February 12th from 1:30-3:30 pm and 6:30-8:30 pm (the same workshop repeated twice) at the Piedmont Emergency Center  (EOC) in the Police Department on Highland Avenue; and

3) Two workshops for residents (same workshop repeated twice) on February 26th at 1:30-3:30 pm and 6:30-8:30 pm at the EOC. This will be more of a deep dive into the proposed code.

The Piedmont Reach Codes implemented this year will set the tone for Piedmont’s commitment to taking action during this critical decade in the effort to prevent the worst effects of climate change, and we could end up being a leading role model for other small, residentially-dominant cities.

Margaret Ovenden, Member of Piedmont Connect Steering Committee 


P.S. If you haven’t already, please make sure to join the Piedmont Climate Challenge: piedmontclimatechallenge.org

3 Responses to “OPINION: Climate Crisis and Piedmont Building Code Changes ?”

  1. Margaret’s last paragraph is most important – these workshops are pivotal to Piedmont setting a course to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. And she’s right that Piedmont has an opportunity to take a leading role – most of the reach codes being developed by other cities are for new construction, very infrequent in Piedmont. Staff has drafted proposals that apply to some remodels but more expansive code changes are needed to reduce natural gas use in Piedmont. To start, Piedmont needs to hear from technical experts in town who know about the latest energy saving technologies and how they could be more rapidly implemented through building code changes, particularly through home remodels. But staff also needs to hear from the “what if” residents – Piedmont is not just limited to building code changes to fight climate change. What about natural gas bans, curbside EV charging stations, bans on outdoor natural gas installations for pools/cooking? Staff needs to hear from both groups at this first workshop to develop meaningful proposals to fight climate change.

  2. Garrett is correct about the greater difficulty of retrofitting an existing home for energy efficiency versus starting out with an energy-efficient design for new home construction.

    I have done a lot for my home in Piedmont at relatively low cost and in most cases, my lower energy bills paid back my upfront costs rather quickly.

    I decided to share my experiences and ideas for a series of code changes in a letter to the City. The letter is GNDP.pdf on my website.

    I also shared my letter with a Piedmont scientist working for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and he liked all the ideas in the letter.

    Hari Titan

  3. Here is the full link to that letter:


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