State and Local Building Efficiency Regulations & Policies: Seattle & the Pacific Northwest

In this series, we’re exploring state and local building efficiency regulations to give you a bird’s-eye view of the policies that may impact your portfolio.

Building energy use is responsible for more than one-third of Seattle’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. Over 90 percent of these emissions come from burning fossil fuels like fracked gas and oil for heat, hot water, and cooking.1

That said, Seattle’s longstanding commitment to sustainability is undeniable. In 2000, Seattle became the first city in the United States to adopt a green building goal for all new municipal buildings. It launched a LEED incentive program for private projects in 2001. In 2005, Seattle City Light became the nation’s first carbon-neutral electric utility. And in 2011, Seattle became a founding member of the 2030 Districts, a national network of public-private partnerships characterized by ambitious sustainability targets for both existing buildings and new construction. 

While Seattle and Washington State have issued stringent regulations around building emissions and efficiency over the last decade, the Greater Pacific Northwest area has – perhaps surprisingly – taken a slightly more hands-off approach. 

Learn more about how Aquicore makes it easy to collect the energy data needed to comply with local, city, and state benchmarking regulations.

We’ve compiled the key building energy requirements, policies, and plans for the Pacific Northwest area. Keep reading for the full list: 

State / City / CountyNameType of Regulation / Policy / InitiativeDescriptionEffective Date
State of WashingtonSenate Bill 5854 -2009-10 2009Energy BenchmarkingState-owned buildings and commercial buildings, including public universities and state community and technical colleges more than 10,000 square feet; Utility companies serving the state of Washington must track and report their annual energy use in Energy Star Portfolio Manager.  Utilities are required to provide buildings with aggregated whole-building energy usage to comply and the reported benchmarking data will be publicly disclosed.2009
State of WashingtonSenate Bill 5854 -2009-10 2009Energy Efficiency (Existing Buildings)Buildings greater than 10,000 square feet must disclose energy performance metrics to prospective buyers, lessee, or lender using Energy Star Portfolio Manager.2009
State of WashingtonSenate Bill 5854 -2009-10 2009Energy Efficiency (New Construction)New construction buildings greater than 10,000 square feet must meet state energy code targets using Energy Star Target Finder tool or equivalent methodology.2009
State of WashingtonState Efficiency and Environmental Performance 2018Energy Efficiency (Existing Buildings)State-owned and leased facilities and City-funded projects must adopt and implement plans to reduce energy use by at least 10% during the first year.2018
State of WashingtonHouse Bill 1257 – Energy Efficiency 2019Energy Efficiency (Existing Buildings)Commercial buildings greater than 50,000 square feet must track and report their energy use and disclose their 1-100 Energy star score to a purchaser or prospective purchaser of the facility before the time of sale. Buildings must also comply with performance goals or follow compliance options once every 5 years including conducting an energy audit and creating an implementation plan to reduce energy use intensity.2019

State of Washington
House Bill 1257 – Energy Efficiency 2019  RCW 19.27A.210Energy Efficiency (Existing Buildings)An update to the initial 2019 bill- commercial buildings 50,000 square feet or more must comply with an energy performance standard that uses intensity targets by building type.  ANSI-ASHRAE-IES standard 100-2018 will be used as an initial model for standard development and the Washington Department of Commerce will update this every 5 years. Building owners will be notified of compliance requirements by July 1, 2021, and compliance dates are by building size beginning in 2026 for buildings over 220,000 square feet.  Click here for more information on how to comply.
City of SeattleSeattle Municipal Code 22.920Energy BenchmarkingNon-residential and multifamily buildings greater than 20,000 square feet must track and report their annual energy use in Energy Star Portfolio Manager.   The City of Seattle annually publishes building energy performance data. Click here for more information.
City of SeattleBuilding Tune-Ups Ordinance (Seattle Municipal Code 22.930)Energy Efficiency (Existing Buildings)Commercial buildings greater than 50,000 square feet must complete a building “tune-up” every five years to assess and implement operational and maintenance improvements to achieve energy and water efficiency. Click here for more information on how to comply.2016
City of SeattleSeattle Energy Code(Energy Efficiency (New Construction and Major Renovations)In February 2021, Mayor Jenny Durkan signed into law new updates to have Seattle’s commercial energy code include: eliminating gas from most water heating and space heating systems, improving building exteriors, and creating more opportunities for solar power.The most recent code updates will go into effect March, 2021
City of SeattleSeattle Building Performance StandardEnergy Efficiency (Existing Buildings)To complement Washington State’s law HB 1257, the Mayor’s 2018 Climate Action Strategy calls for specific Building Performance Standards that are currently being developed.In-Process
City of SeattleThe Sustainable Buildings and Sites Policy (PDF; established by Resolution 31326Energy Efficiency (City-Owned New Construction & Major Renovations)New construction, major renovation, and tenant improvement projects 5,000 square feet or greater must meet LEED Gold, as well as key performance requirements for energy and water efficiency and waste diversion. Click here for more information.2011
City of SeattleHeating Oil OrdinanceClimate Pollution (New Construction and Existing Buildings)To reduce climate pollution, prevent soil and groundwater contamination and improve air quality, Seattle passed a law to help phase out oil heat by 2028. A key component of this law is by imposing a tax of 24 cents a gallon on heating oil starting September 1, 2021. For a summary of details, click hereEffective Date: September 1, 2021
State of OregonState Energy Efficiency Design (SEED) Program 2012Energy Efficiency (State-owned buildings, Existing Buildings)All state-owned buildings must track and report their annual energy use in Energy Star Portfolio Manager and reduce energy use intensity by an additional 20 percent (compared to 2015 and an overall 2000 baseline) by 2023.2012
State of OregonState Energy Efficiency Design (SEED) Program 2012Energy Efficiency (State-owned buildings, New Construction & Major Renovation)State agencies must incorporate energy-efficient design aspects into the construction or renovation of all applicable buildings. 2012
Portland, OregonBuilding Energy Use Benchmarking Ordinance 2016Energy Efficiency (State-owned buildings, Existing Buildings)Commercial buildings greater than 20,000 square feet must track and report their annual energy use in Energy Star Portfolio Manager.  Benchmarking data will be disclosed publicly. 2016
Portland, OregonEnergy Performance Rating for Home OwnersEnergy Efficiency (Single Family Home Owners)Sellers of most single-family homes in Portland must obtain and disclose a home energy score at time of sale.2016
1. http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/OSE/Building%20Energy/OSE_BuildingsWork.pdf
2. http://greenspace.seattle.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/SeaClimateAction_April2018.pdf

Key Sources:

  • https://database.aceee.org/policies-targeting-existing-buildings
  • https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/program-administrators/state-and-local-governments/see-federal-state-and-local-benchmarking-policies
  • https://www.dsireusa.org/
  • https://www.ncsl.org/research/energy/energy-legislation-tracking-database.aspx
  • http://www.seattle.gov/environment/climate-change/buildings-and-energy
  • http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/OSE/Building%20Energy/OSE_BuildingsWork.pdf
  • https://greenspace.seattle.gov/2021/02/mayor-durkan-signs-legislation-making-seattles-building-energy-code-one-of-strongest-on-climate-in-the-nation/#sthash.DIAC29rM.HvqCSiCe.dpbs