Statewide codes come into play when you build a new home in California.
We understand why you’d want to custom build in California. The state offers amazing outdoor adventures, the opportunity to settle down in a cozy, family oriented community, and proximity to world-class entertainment events.
We’ve written about why you should build in Southern California, but what are some things you should know before you do?
To Build A New Home In California, You May Have To Tear Down An Old House
In the part of California where we do most of our work, the South Bay and the beach communities of LA County, there are few—if any—empty lots. If you want to custom build, you’ll have to renovate or tear down an existing structure.
California Homes Appreciate Anyway, But Value Add Features Are Still Important
We hope you love your new home in California forever, but you may get transferred for a job. Your family may outgrow your space. With custom building, you’re starting from a blank slate. This allows you to add features that will make your house more valuable long-term.
These features include:
- A gourmet kitchen, with plenty of custom cabinetry and storage
- A laundry room
- An inviting entryway
- Built in storage
- A fabulous, spa-like master bath
When You Build A New Home In California, You Have To Consider State Codes
The state of California adopts new construction codes every three years. We’re currently under these residential codes. Next year we’ll get new codes, which will take effect on January 1, 2023.
New Legislation Means It’s Easier To Have An ADU On Your Property
According to a law that took effect in January 2021, you can now have an ADU, or additional dwelling unit, even if your lot is zoned for single family dwelling. This law also overrules homeowners association objections and allows you to build an ADU even if the primary home is in a historic district.
All permits for ADUs will be approved in 60 days now, rather than 120 days, and some parking requirements are waived.
The lifting of restrictions is meant to ease housing shortages, but it’s also just in time for the boost in multigenerational living. According to an AIA (American Institute of Architects) survey, the numbers of Americans interested in multigenerational living spiked from 41-percent of respondents to 54-percent in 2020. As the pandemic lingered, many of us realized we weren’t ok with having parents and grandparents out of reach or in senior living facilities that banned visitors.
ADUs also make great playhouses and guest cottages and offer semi-private living for your college student or fresh grad.
California’s Push For Zero Net Energy
California has the second lowest energy consumption per capita in the US, behind Hawaii. In 1978, the state adopted clean energy building standards. They were the first codes to regulate energy use for an entire state. The California Energy Code has been updated several times, most recently with a significant piece of legislation known as Title 24.
Part of Title 24 mandates that all new buildings will have zero net energy by 2025. This means new homes in California need to be designed with some way to collect and store energy, such as solar panels. They need to be able to put the same amount of energy that they consume back into the grid.
In general, California homes must be constructed with whole system approaches to energy efficiency. This may include orientation, building envelopes, closed loop and energy recovery systems, multiple temperature zones, water systems, and more.
In California Homes, You’ll Find Hospital-Quality Air Filters
We have some of the highest MERV rating requirements in the US.
What is a MERV rating? We talk about MERV in-depth here, but in short, it tells you how effective your air filter is. The higher the number, the more tiny particles your filter catches and the less you breathe in.
In most of the US, the residential standard is a MERV rating of 7-12, with hospital ratings beginning at 13. But in California, the minimum standard in now 13, even for residential settings. This means that in your home, you’ll be breathing very clean air.
A New Home In California Must Be Built To Seismic Code
Any California house built before 1980 is considered a collapse-risk in the case of an earthquake. But new homes are much safer, because they must be built to seismic code. Seismic code mandates that all masonry, wall anchors, and bolts have been tested and reinforced to withstand extreme shaking. Renovating an older home? It can be retrofitted to be compliant.
If you build a new home on the California coast, you may also want to consider the low but potential risk of a tsunami. Building for tsunami resistance includes deep foundations, reinforced concrete rather than wood, structural design that allows water to flow through a space, redundant supports that allow for partial rather than complete collapse, connectors that can accommodate stress, and steel framing.
You May Want An In Home Electric Car Charging Station
A quarter of all the electric cars in the US are registered in California. If you build a new home in California, you may want to consider an in home rapid charging station. It will increase your resale value, even if you don’t drive an electric car yet.
Curious about building a new home in California? Have concerns we missed in this post?
Please get in touch. We’re seasoned South Bay builders and designers, happy to answer any questions you have about custom building in LA County.
Thanks for reading,
Hawlie Ohe heads White Sands Interiors, and she and her husband are raising two boys along the South Bay coast. Hawlie brings the curiosity that fueled her first career, as a journalist, to her interior design approach: Who are you, who do want to be, and how can this space get you there? Great design makes you feel present and engaged, and Hawlie is here for it. Because she wants to help you be “here” (in this space, in this moment), too.