The CEC says that energy savings over the next 30 years under the new rules, approved by a 4-0 vote Thursday, would be equal to the output of six modern natural-gas-fired power plants, saving enough electricity to run 1.7 million homes.
As part of the new standards, home builders must fit new houses with solar-ready roofs, more efficient windows, insulated hot water pipes and whole house fans that use evening air to cool homes and attics, reducing the need for central air conditioning.
The new regulations, which take effect Jan. 1, 2014, also apply to major building additions and retrofits.
Nonresidential buildings must be equipped with solar-ready roofs as well as high-performance windows, sensors and controls that allow for "daylighting."
"Improving the energy efficiency of buildings in which we will live and work will save Californians energy for decades," Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas said in a statement.
"These standards will help save consumers money on their utility bills, keep them comfortable in their homes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through better, more efficient buildings."
While the new standards will raise the construction cost of a new home an average of $2,290, it will result in more than $6,200 in energy savings over 30 years, CEC says.
Steve Malnight, vice president of Customer Energy Solutions for Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which provides natural gas and electric service to approximately 15 million people in northern and central California, said the commission's work on building standards "is integral to California's long-standing leadership in energy efficiency."
"The building standards adopted today, which represent a balancing of many interests, are a cost-effective way to help customers save money on their energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Malnight said in a statement.
The CEC projects that the new regulations will add up to 3,500 new building industry jobs. Independent inspectors, for example, will need to verify that air conditioners were installed correctly.
CEC said it worked closely with the building industry and other stakeholders to develop the standards.
While the California Building Industry -- representing 90 percent of the state's home builders -- supported the new measures, the group said that in light of the weak economy it would have preferred that the commission hadn't made changes to existing standards at this time.
Noting that the commission has ambitious goals to meet, "we recognize that doing nothing was not in the cards," Robert Raymer, senior engineer for the builders group told the Los Angeles Times.