September 30, 2022

Commercial Bans On Natural Gas: Here What To Consider for Your Building’s MEP Design in 2023

Commercial Bans On Natural Gas: Here What To Consider for Your Building’s MEP Design in 2023

The state of California’s recent announcement that it plans to eliminate natural gas subsidies and ban the sale of residential and commercial natural gas heaters by 2030 has generated plenty of headlines. Restrictions on the sale and use of natural gas in new construction will have major implications for both residential homeowners and commercial builders in the coming years.

When California phases out the use of space and water heaters that require natural gas, it’s likely that a number of other states will follow suit. Already, more than 50 cities in California have begun creating their own residential and commercial bans on natural gas.

In Los Angeles, the City Council voted to ban natural gas in new residential and commercial buildings in May 2022. While the specific details of these proposed commercial bans have not been published, it’s likely that restrictions could be in place as early as January 1st, 2023.

Those restrictions will have a major impact on MEP design in commercial buildings. Commercial builders and professionals in the HVAC industry are already voicing their concerns. However, with an adjusted MEP design, it is possible for builders to continue to meet project deadlines and stay on budget.

Here is an overview of the proposed natural gas regulations, and what builders should do to prepare for commercial bans.

Why Are Regulators Banning the Sale of Natural Gas Heaters?

California’s recent decision to eliminate the sale of natural gas furnaces and water heaters by 2030 is the latest in a long line of regulations designed to combat climate change head on. Making the switch to fully-electric buildings is one step in helping California achieve its statewide goal of reaching 100% clean electricity by the year 2045.

In addition to cleaning the air for all Californians, new regulations are being designed in a way that will reduce emissions in low-income and disadvantaged communities, which experience greater levels of persistent air pollution.

It’s clear that electrifying buildings reduces carbon footprints within the building sector. Well-executed MEP design plans take mechanical, electrical, and plumbing features into account.

MEP design firms are important across all stages of construction, but especially so in current times with so many environmental regulations in flux. MEP design firms like KMB assist in decision-making, budget estimation, construction administration, and building management. A commercial building plan developed by an MEP design team takes energy efficiency into account, so commercial builders can avoid excessive power bills.

How Will a Natural Gas Ban Impact New Construction?

Among builders who have already broken ground and those still in the development stage, potential commercial bans on natural gas are a major concern.

The California Energy Commission has approved a new building code that establishes electric heat pumps as the baseline requirement beginning next year, in 2023. State regulators say they plan to install 6 million heat pumps in new constructions and existing buildings by 2030.

Proposed legislation in Los Angeles will require new residential and commercial construction to be designed as zero-emission buildings. Combustion appliances will not be allowed for cooking, space heating, or water heating.

MEP design firms like KMB have been tracking these new regulations and they can provide builders with solutions to adapt existing plans using the latest techniques for energy-efficiency in mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.

What Are the Benefits of Commercial Bans on Natural Gas?

The most obvious benefit of a commercial ban on natural gas is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In the city of Los Angeles, buildings account for 43% of greenhouse gas emissions. Fully-electric buildings emit far less greenhouse gas.

Beyond the environmental concerns, there are also a number of advantages for commercial applications. These include:

  • Reduction in ongoing energy costs.
  • Better indoor air quality, as electric buildings are generally considered to be healthier thanks to the elimination of onsite combustion.
  • Fully-electric buildings come with lower construction costs.

MEP Design Reduces Costs in Building Fully-Electric Buildings

In states like New York, New Jersey, and California, where kilowatt-hour prices are higher than average, electricity bills can add up fast. According to the Energy Information Administration, the average electricity price for homeowners in the U.S. was 15.42 cents/kWh in June 2022, however the average rate was 28.98 cents/kWh in California.

The most effective strategy to reduce electricity bills in fully-electric buildings is by having an energy-efficient design. For example, well-insulated buildings designed to be air tight reduce heat loss during the winter months and lead to significant cost savings.

Heat pumps are another solution often integrated into today’s MEP designs. Heat pumps use two to six times less electricity than electric resistance heaters. They can also be complemented with solar power and battery energy storage in an effort to minimize electricity consumption.

Many solar panels and batteries now qualify for tax credit from the federal government, making this a viable option for commercial builders looking to decrease ongoing energy costs.

Modern Solutions from KMB Design Group

California’s decision to phase out natural gas heaters is concerning to commercial builders across the country. KMB Design Group has been tracking these new regulations on a state-by-state basis. For a more detailed analysis of how pending regulations could impact your next commercial project, reach out to KMB’s MEP design team online or call our office directly at 855-755-6234.

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