Berkeley RECO

The purpose of the Residential Energy Conservation Ordinance (RECO) is to improve the energy (and now water) efficiency of housing stock at the point of sale and major renovation. Richard Register and other members of Urban Ecology worked to research and promote this groundbreaking community energy efficiency project that was initiated by the Berkeley Energy Commission.

Adopted in 1987, the Berkeley RECO is currently enforced by the City’s Building and Safety Department.  The law says that when a house, apartment, or other residential unit goes on sale or undergoes significant renovation, the property must make improvements to energy efficiency and water conservation.

The ordinance promotes the wise and efficient use of energy and water by prescribing standards for physical components of residential structures. every home or apartment building sold or transferred in Berkeley or undergoing renovations valued at $50,000 or more must meet energy or water efficiency requirements with regards to lighting; toilets, showerheads and faucets; hot and cold water insulation; weatherization and climate.

In Berkeley, CA, the majority of the housing stock was built before the introduction of state building energy codes.  The buildings are often drafty, with no insulation and single-pane windows. Further, more than half of the city’s housing units are occupied by renters. In rental units landlords must approve and often conduct and pay for any major energy retrofits. However, the retrofits primarily benefit the renters, who pay the utility bills. Because of these split incentives, an obvious point of intervention to improve the energy efficiency of the existing building stock over time is at transfer of ownership or major renovation. The Berkeley RECO, which has been in place since the 1980s, applies to all residential homes and units, whether single-family homes, condos, multi-family properties, or live-work spaces, and requires that the home or unit comply with specific energy and water performance measures at the time of sale or major renovation.

The Berkeley RECO has ten prescriptive measures covering toilets, showerheads, faucets, water heaters, hot and cold water piping, exterior door weather-stripping, furnace ducts, fireplace chimneys, ceiling insulation, and lighting in common areas (for multi-family buildings).

A similar ordinance concerning commercial properties are now also in place.

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