Why Benchmarking Is Required

Why Benchmarking is Required in Seattle

This policy supports Seattle's 2030 goals in the Climate Action Plan to reduce energy use by 10% in commercial buildings and by 20% in residential buildings.

Benefits include:

  • Showing property owners and managers how their buildings are using - and wasting - energy. Benchmarking is a first step towards lowering energy costs and staying competitive.
  • Helping businesses and consumers make more informed decisions that take actual energy costs into account when buying or renting property.
  • Lowering energy costs to owners and tenants, reducing greenhouse gas impacts, and creating jobs in the energy services and construction trades.
  • Establishing energy performance ranges for Seattle building types based on their reported 2012 energy use to help owners see how their building's energy use stacks up to their peers.
  • Allowing the City to track its energy reduction goals and target incentive dollars by market sector.  

Seattle is one of 16 U.S. cities with benchmarking laws (as of June 2015), including New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, Chicago, Austin, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Boston. The states of Washington and California also have disclosure policies. Buildingrating.org summarizes current programs. In 2013, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy noted Seattle's benchmarking program when it ranked Seattle 5th in the nation for policies and programs advancing energy efficiency.  

Annual Reports to the City

Building owners are required to benchmark their properties and authorize the City of Seattle to download annual energy performance data for each building. In April or later of each year, the City will download and store data for all buildings for which it has been authorized. This data will be a subset of the information about each building as contained in Portfolio Manager, including the following fields:

  • Portfolio Manager Account Holder Information
  • Building Name & Address
  • Total Gross Floor Area
  • Year Built
  • Portfolio Manager Defined Property Type
  • ENERGY STAR Rating and Certification Years 
  • ENERGY STAR Default data alerts
  • Normalized* & Non-normalized Total Site Annual Energy Consumption (kbtu)
  • Normalized & Non-normalized Site EUI* (kbtu/sf)
  • Normalized & Non-normalized Total Source Annual Energy Consumption (kbtu)
  • Normalized & Non-normalized Source EUI* (kbtu/sf)
  • Normalized & Non-normalized Total Site Electricity Consumption (Grid and Renewables) (kwh)
  • Normalized & Non-normalized Total Site Natural Gas Consumption (Therms)
  • Non-normalized Total Site Steam Consumption (kBtu)
  • National Median Site Energy Intensity
  • Data Center IT Site Energy
  • Data Center IT Source Power Use Effectiveness
  • Indirect Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Total gross floor area for each type of space use in the building (and parking) and percent heated/cooled  

Information in Portfolio Manager about the operating characteristics of a building, such as weekly operating hours or number of employees, will NOT be reported to the City or made publicly available. 

Will the building's energy data be made public?

Though some other jurisdictions with benchmarking programs will be publicly displaying individual building energy data, the City of Seattle's ordinance dictates that building owners or managers directly share an Energy Disclosure Report with tenants, buyers or other qualified parties. Furthermore, to protect the private energy use information of tenants, energy data reported to the City is summarized across the entire building and by energy use type. Monthly individual meter readings are NOT included in the data downloaded by the City of Seattle.

Director's Rule and Municipal Code 


 Normalized = The energy the building would have used under average weather conditions in the building's geographic location. Since weather in a given year can be hotter or colder than average, weather-normalized energy is used to account for yearly variations from average. Portfolio Manager uses weather data from Seattle's Boeing Field weather station to inform its normalization.

Site EUI and Source EUI = Site EUI represents the total on-site energy use-the most relevant metric for facility managers and owners. Site EUI, however, does not account for the environmental impacts of energy sources, which is included in Source EUI. Seattle typically uses Site EUI for its reports because the metrics used by the US EPA to calculate source EUI do not take into account Seattle City Light's carbon-neutrality.