Buildings & Energy

Leading with conservation and renewable energy

By a variety of metrics, Seattle is a national leader in energy conservation, green energy production, and sustainable building. For example, Seattle is in the top 10 cities with the most LEED and Energy Star certified buildings-holding its place alongside much more populous cities (e.g., New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago). The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy ranks Seattle 5th in the nation for policies and programs advancing energy efficiency. Seattle City Light, our publicly owned electric utility, is "the nation's greenest utility." 

How we build and operate buildings and landscapes impacts the climate, the planet's water and other natural resources, occupant health and an owner's pocketbook.  Sustainable building is one of many terms given to a suite of approaches and strategies employed to improve a building's environmental performance and provide health and financial benefits to owners and occupants.

The Office of Sustainability and Environment works with multiple City departments to develop policy and implement initiatives that promote sustainable development and resource efficiency. Green building code requirements and permitting incentives are facilitated through the Department of Planning and Development. Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities offer incentives and assistance to help homeowners, developers, and building owners to conserve energy and water. See the Buildings + Energy Incentives section for a comprehensive list. 

OSE Key Initiatives

The Office of Sustainability and Environment plays a role in the following initiatives. See the Programs & Policies page of this section for all the Building & Energy related work the City is engaged in.

Community Power Works
Community Power Works helps residents upgrade their homes to save energy and money, while growing our local energy efficiency construction economy.
District Energy
District energy is one of the innovative policy areas the Office of Sustainability and Environment leads to find new ways to heat and cool neighboring buildings efficiently and capture wasted energy.
City Facilities
The City of Seattle is working hard to make municipally owned and operated buildings models of efficiency through implementation of the Sustainable Buildings and Sites Policy and the Resource Conservation Management Plan.
Energy Benchmarking and Reporting
Learn how to comply and find out how your building’s energy use compares to others in Seattle. Required annually for non-residential and multifamily buildings 20,000 sf or larger.

Goal: Reduce energy use in City-owned buildings 20% by 2020


The City of Seattle has an excellent track record of reducing the environmental impact of City operations, among them: a Commute Trip Reduction Program to reduce miles employees travel to and from work, a Green Fleets Plan to reduce emissions from on-the-job travel, and a Sustainable Buildings and Sites Policy to ensure that new construction and renovations meet strict energy performance criteria. The City also recognizes the critical importance of improving the efficiency of existing buildings and has set a goal of reducing energy use across City-owned buildings 20% by 2020.

GHG Emissions by Sector, 2012In addition to the City's efforts to reduce energy use in City-owned buildings, Seattle launched its Energy Benchmarking and Reporting program in 2010. This program aims to help building owners manage energy resources, reduce energy costs and lower carbon emissions. Benchmarking establishes a baseline of energy performance for each property that can be used to guide energy efficiency investments. 

The first step toward reducing energy consumption is effectively tracking energy use to understand existing conditions. Below are several reports that give an overview of where Seattle is in terms of energy usage, both for City-owned and privately owned buildings.