Home Improvement Snafu

CA-Modern story explores how CA energy code eats away at Eichler design integrity
Fridays on the Homefront
While California's energy efficiency standards continue to be ahead of other states throughout the country, at the same time the state's Title 24 building regulations have been negatively impacting the architectural integrity of thousands of California mid-century modern homes, like the one above.
Photo: Sabrina Huang
Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront
New Winter '19 CA-Modern.

Just as modern-style housing was at the cutting edge in mid-century California, the state's energy efficiency standards today continue to be ahead of other states throughout the country.

Unfortunately, as energy standards strengthen, options to preserve the look of those same modern homes, the 11,000 Eichlers included, are disappearing.

"I think Title 24 will definitely affect the architectural heritage of Eichlers," says Tanja Kern, Eichler Network Home-Improvement Editor, who should know. Kern just finished an extensive research effort to produce 'Dazed & Confused,' her feature about the bewildering state of California's Title 24 building regulations in the new Winter '19 issue of CA-Modern magazine.

"California is really leading the charge in energy efficiency and preserving environmental quality," Kern noted recently. "It's an important precedent the state is making for the nation long term, but it is tough for owners of architecturally significant homes like Eichlers."

Regulations have become much more demanding since a revision last spring of the California energy code, now called '2019 Title 24, Part 6: Building Energy Efficiency Standards.' A Powerpoint posted online by the California Energy Commission is somewhat helpful, but interpreting it for certain styles of buildings can be challenging.

That's where Tanja's feature comes to the rescue of Eichler homeowners who, after doing initial research, might feel as dazed and confused as Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page when he 'borrowed' the song of that name back in the 1960s.

"The whole topic of Title 24 restrictions—it's pretty crazy," San Francisco architect John Klopf tells Tanja. Klopf is one of several Eichler experts who spoke for the article of the daunting ramifiations for these houses under the new standards.

Title 24 regulations were actually among the first work done upon creation of the California Energy Commission in 1974. Naturally, they've been revised a few times since their enactment in 1978, up to and including the new requirement that all new residential construction after January 1, 2020 will have solar power.

Kern's concern over Title 24's implications for Eichler design integrity stems primarily from the decreasing options for replacing windows, sliding-glass doors, and sometimes roofing.