Santa Barbara County Leads in Zero Energy Policy & Incentives

by Heather Flint Chatto, NBI Program Manager

It’s no secret that California is leading in the U.S. on policies favoring net zero energy (NZE) buildings. The state has set aggressive goals for NZE for both residential and commercial buildings in the next 15 years. Now local jurisdictions are putting in place their own rules for how they will meet the state’s ambitions.  Earlier this year, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution that states:

“All new Santa Barbara County owned facilities and major renovations beginning design after 2025 [will] be constructed as Zero Net Energy Facilities with an interim target for 50% of facilities beginning design after 2020 to be Zero Net Energy.  Santa Barbara County departments shall also take measures toward achieving Zero Net Energy for 50% of existing Santa Barbara County owned facilities by 2025 and the remaining 50% by 2035.”


Green Building Incentives for Ultra Low & Zero Energy Buildings
To support ultra-low energy performance, Santa Barbara County also offers a green building program called “Smart Build SB2” which includes incentives for buildings that exceed Title 24 energy requirements. This program was amended on July 1, 2014, to offer incentives specifically for buildings that are ultra-low energy verified or zero net energy. Participants receive free advice on energy-efficient strategies and incentives for meeting SB2’s energy efficiency criteria from a review committee made up of local professionals. The committee’s advice benefits the design, construction and operation of development in a number of ways, including increased marketability, increased comfort and reduced utility bills.

The SB2 Program consists of two tiers, both of which exceed standard building and energy requirements. These tiers encourage builders to either be “Ultra-Low Energy Verified” or “Zero Net Energy.”  The program applies to both existing and new residential and nonresidential buildings. Participation in SB2 is not a building or zoning permit application requirement but rather a free service providing advice on green building design. All development plans that meet one of the two voluntary tiers and CALGreen’s mandatory requirements receive a Santa Barbara County Smart Building Award Certificate.

Additional incentives include:

Ultra Low Energy Verified buildings (Tier 1) receive 50% reduction in energy plan check fee, expedited Building & Safety Division plan check review process (average 30-50% time reduction) and use of Program logo and marketing.

Zero Net Energy building projects (Tier 2) are eligible for all Tier 1 incentives and recognition through a Resolution of Commendation from the County Board of Supervisors.

For more information and sample policy language, view the Santa Barbara County Resolution for Zero Energy Buildings, hearing documents, presentations and supporting staff reports.