Next Generation Energy Efficiency Policy

New legislation establishing the foundation for a building market that values energy efficiency, and sets minimum expectations around efficient operations was passed unanimously by Council and signed by Mayor Murray on March 10, 2016.  At the direction of the Mayor, OSE developed the new policies to keep Seattle on track to meet Seattle's GHG emissions reduction goal in the building sector, as outlined in our Climate Action Plan (CAP). Seattle's new building energy legislation addresses three distinct areas:

Building Energy Transparency

The Benchmarking Amendments ordinance updates Seattle's existing energy benchmarking law to include public transparency of building energy performance to spur market demand for energy efficiency.

Building Tune-Ups
The Building Tune-Ups ordinance phases in a periodic (every 5 years)  tune-up requirement for commercial buildings 50,000 square feet or larger, beginning in 2018. Tune-ups will optimize energy and water performance and encourage active management in Seattle's commercial buildings. Tune-ups would identify and correct no- or low-cost tweaks to building operations, measures that would pay back in 2-3 years. Exemptions would take into account buildings that already conduct tune-ups or demonstrate high performance.    

Public Meeting:

Tuesday, September 13th, 8:30-10:00 am
Smart Buildings Center, 1200 12th Avenue S.  
RSVP to:

City Leadership
To model leadership, an accompanying City-owned Building Tune-Ups resolution directs the City to conduct tune-ups on City-owned buildings one year in advance of the compliance deadlines in the Building Tune-Up ordinance.

From March - September 2016, OSE will develop the accompanying Director's Rules for the Benchmarking and Building Tune-Ups ordinances. If you would like to become engaged in either or both of the Director's Rules processes, please contact us at



In 2013, the City of Seattle adopted a Climate Action Plan for achieving the City's vision for a carbon-neutral community by 2050. The CAP focuses on sectors where City action will have the greatest impact: road transportation, building energy, and solid waste. The strategies outlined in the CAP will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from those sectors, prepare our communities for climate impacts, build vibrant neighborhoods, foster economic prosperity, and enhance social equity.

Buildings are responsible for 33% of Seattle's core emissions. The City of Seattle is aiming for a 39% reduction in building-related emissions by 2030 and an 82% reduction by 2050.

The Seattle Climate Action Plan breaks out these goals further, indicating that commercial building energy use must be reduced 45% by 2050, residential building energy use by 63%, and the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of all energy use (emissions per BTU) also by 63%. This means that if reductions were to be charted linearly, commercial buildings would need to be reducing their net energy use approximately 1.10% annually. In actuality, commercial buildings collectively reduced their energy use by an average of only 0.25% annually between 2008 and 2012.

The CAP outlines a range of near-term (by 2015) and long-term (by 2030) actions to put the city on a path to achieving those goals. With the majority of 2015 near-term actions for buildings already in place, the Mayor's Office asked the Office of Sustainability and Environment to detail the next steps needed to keep the City on track to achieve its energy efficiency and climate protection goals, with a particular focus on existing commercial buildings. Improving the energy and GHG efficiency of Seattle's existing building stock will most directly help us to reduce our climate impact, but will also more broadly:

  • ensure we have high performing buildings better able to respond to a changing climate;
  • maintain affordability for owners and  tenants through reduced annual building operating expenses; and
  • support local green jobs



The Climate Action Plan includes a suite of greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies. These strategies were developed with extensive public engagement which included a Building Energy Technical Advisory Group, a Green Ribbon Commission and multiple public comment opportunities. As we work to develop the next generation of energy efficiency policies, the City has continued to include a wide range of stakeholders in informal discussions. Since March of 2015, OSE has engaged over 30 different organizations including building owners, energy efficiency advocacy groups, energy service companies, business councils, and more -- to share ideas and register comments, questions, and any concerns for a range of potential strategies for achieving our climate goals in the building sector. OSE has also engaged with partner cities around the United States to learn from their experiences and understand how Seattle might be affected by these policy decisions. Stakeholder engagement continues with development of the Director's Rules for Building Energy Transparency and Building Tune-Ups.