This page provides background information on the Building Tune-Ups policy, guidance on where to go for support in complying with the Tune-Ups requirements, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Explore the sections below:

Background Documents

Basic Program Information

  • The Building Tune-Ups Overview is a two-page handout that summarizes the Building Tune-Ups requirements, the Tune-Up process, and provides information on the options for complying with the policy requirements.
  • The Building Tune-Ups OSE Director's Rule 2016-01 clarifies the requirements of SMC 22.930 and the processes through which building owners and other affected parties may satisfactorily comply with the requirement and report the results to the City of Seattle.
  • The Tune-Ups Accelerator Fact Sheet is a two-page handout that provides an overview of the Tune-Up Accelerator Program. 
  • The Northwest Energy Efficiency Council maintains a list of firms with staff that meet the requirements of a Tune-Up Specialist. Inclusion on the list is voluntary and does not represent an endorsement by the City of Seattle.

Compliance Documents

  • The Building Tune-Ups Workbook is a spreadsheet that provides a preview of all of the information required to demonstrate completion of a Tune-Up. The workbook is a resource to help building owners and their representatives initiate work to meet compliance deadlines but will not be submitted to the City. All tune-up data will be submitted to the City through an online portal in Spring 2018.
  • The Alternative Compliance handout provides a summary of all Tune-Up Equivalency and Exemplary Performance compliance options. 
  • The Waivers and Extensions handout provides a summary of all options for a waiver from a Tune-Ups cycle and for one-year extensions.
  • The Tune-Up Specialist Information Form is a temporary form that is required as part of all Alternative Compliance requests that require verification by a Tune-Up Specialist. See our How to Comply section for more details on the requirements for each Alternative Compliance request.

Additional Information

Sign up for the Building Tune-Ups e-news for program updates, workshop dates, and tips. Have additional questions about how to comply with the Building Tune-Ups ordinance and save energy, water, and money?
206-727-TUNE (8863)

Frequently Asked Questions


Tune-Up Requirement

Tune-Up Applicability

Tune-Up Costs


Alternative Compliance

Tune-Up Specialist



Why is the City requiring Building Tune-Ups?
Building energy use accounts for more than 20% of Seattle's GHG emissions. To meet the targets established in Seattle's Climate Action Plan, we must reduce emissions from buildings by 82%. Building Tune-Ups will contribute toward Seattle's goal to be carbon neutral by 2050.  

Why didn't the city make Tune-Ups voluntary first?

The City has had voluntary energy efficiency incentive programs in place for decades. These programs have demonstrated progress yet to reach our Climate Action Plan goals we need widespread action, and City leaders have asked us to take bold steps, including the Tune-Ups mandate.

How does the Tune-Ups policy demonstrate Seattle's leadership?
The Tune-Ups requirement is a new approach to energy efficiency in existing buildings, which are a significant source of carbon pollution in cities. While other cities have auditing or retro-commissioning requirements, Seattle's Building Tune-Ups mandate requires that operation and maintenance work be completed to achieve energy efficiency. The City is leading by example: Municipal buildings will comply one year ahead of private sector compliance deadlines.  

Do other cities have similar regulations?
Yes, many other cities including New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Los Angeles have existing building energy efficiency legislation. See for additional information or view a comparison matrix

Tune-Up Requirement

Why is reporting required every 5 years?
While tune-ups generate energy savings, those savings can taper off over time as building systems are adjusted or additional maintenance is required. Typically, payback is expected within 3 years, and by requiring tune-ups every 5 years, owners should be able to reap financial rewards from their tune-up.  

Why are water measures included in Tune-Ups?
Tune-ups are a holistic approach to building energy savings, and water savings provide energy savings. Having a professional Tune-Up Specialist assess your building allows you to find new opportunities to waste less and save more.  

What are corrective actions?
Appropriate corrective actions are operational and/or maintenance actions intended to improve energy or water efficiency or to correct an operational deficiency. An appropriate maintenance action is one that is commonly considered to be standard or normal maintenance. An appropriate operational adjustment can be made to existing equipment without purchasing new equipment. Appropriate corrective actions are listed in the Directors Rule, Section 11.

Can I sample a portion of my building equipment during the building assessment/walk-through?
Yes, a Tune-Up Specialist may review a sample on multiple pieces of repetitive, identical equipment (such as fan coils, plumbing fixtures, or lighting sensors on the same schedules). The sample must include at least 12% of each identical pieces of equipment, and at least 10 of each in buildings 50,000-99,999 square feet, and at least 20 of each in buildings 100,000 square feet or larger. We will ask the Tune-Up Specialist to describe their sampling approach in the Tune-Up summary report.

Tune-Up Applicability

What is a commercial condo? And does it have to comply
A commercial condo is a building or portion of a building comprised of individually owned commercial units that are part of a larger multi-unit building with various owners, and managed by an owner's association. Yes, they must comply if the commercial part of the building is greater than 50,000 SF (excluding parking space). In the case of a commercial condo, the owner's association is responsible for compliance.

What buildings are not subject to the Tune-Ups mandate?

  • Single-family residential buildings.
  • Multifamily residential buildings that contain less than 50,000 square feet of nonresidential space.
  • Mixed-use buildings with less than 50,000 square feet of nonresidential space.
  • Buildings used primarily for manufacturing or industrial uses, with a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) or construction permit showing at least 50% of the gross square footage is classified under the Seattle Building Code as Factory Industrial Group F.  

Do the spaces that my tenants use have to do a Tune-Up?
Yes - and you as the building owner are responsible for their compliance. The only exception for compliance is tenant spaces, 5,000 square feet or smaller, occupied by a tenant and where the tenant owns, operates, and maintains the mechanical equipment (e.g. heating, ventilation, air conditioning).  

How are parking spaces treated in this requirement?
A Tune-Up must include a review of the lighting, ventilation, and other system in the parking area and other unconditioned spaces. Parking space should be excluded from the building square footage when determining if your building is required to comply (and by when).  

I'm tearing down my building - do I have to comply?
Buildings scheduled to be demolished within three years of the tune-up compliance date can apply for a waiver for a tune-up cycle. A demolition or deconstruction permit must be active, or issued no more than two years prior to the tune-up compliance date.  

I just bought this building - do I have to comply?
If you purchased the building within one year prior to or on the compliance deadline (October 1st of the required compliance year), you may apply for a one-year deadline extension. You will not be held to the requirement of submitting extension requests six months in advance if you did not own the building at that time.

Tune-Up Costs

We're due to report next year, but our budgeting cycle is now. Can I get an exemption because it doesn't align with our existing tune-ups schedule?
The City will not grant a grace period to an individual building. If granted, grace periods will be applied consistently across all buildings within a building type and size group. There's an automatic 6-month (180 day) grace period built into the compliance schedule.

How much will a building assessment/walk through cost?
It depends on your building size and how complex your building systems are. Once you've selected a Tune-Up Specialist, they may be able to provide you with a general estimate of the cost, based on the size of your building, and your operating systems.

What should I use for a budget estimate?
The walk-through and the corrective actions are separate processes. The walk-through and corrective Tune-Up actions will vary based on the size and complexity of your building, and its operating systems. Required Tune-Up corrective actions will be based on assessment findings.   

Is there a dollar limit on what you need to spend on a Tune-Up?
No, there's not.

How much energy will I save by doing a Tune-Up?
It varies by building and operations systems, but on average, tune-ups save 10-15 % in energy and typically payback within 2-3 years.

Are cost calculations required as part of the Tune-Up?
No. Some building owners may voluntarily choose to add that information to their scope of work with a Tune-Up Specialist, but that information will not be reported to the City or used as a basis for what corrective actions are needed.  

Is there a fee to file for my tune-ups reporting form?
No, at this time, there's no cost to file the Tune-Up report.  

Do I have to pay for Tune-Up work in tenant spaces? Can I pass the fees on to my tenant(s)?
The City cannot get involved in contract issues. How costs are recovered is a decision between landlord and tenant based on lease terms, or other arrangements you may have with your tenants.  

Are there any incentives available to assist with the cost of a Tune-Up?
Through the Tune-Ups Accelerator Program we're working with smaller buildings (50,000-100,000 SF and smaller) to help them achieve compliance in advance of their deadlines. Accelerator benefits include enhanced technical support and financial incentives to help comply with the mandate. Accelerator funding sunsets after 2018. The Accelerator Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and includes participation from Seattle City Light, Smart Buildings Center, PNNL, IDL and others. To enroll your building in the Accelerator Program, contact Nicole Ballinger at 206.233.7184 or


What happens if I don't comply?
Our primary goal is compliance. While the City of Seattle has the legal authority to assess fines for non-compliance, we have designed the Building Tune-Ups policy with a variety of compliance pathways and staggered deadlines. Should a building owner fail to comply with the regulation by the reporting due date, the City will issue a warning notice outlining potential fines for continued non-compliance. Fines are associated by building size in two phases. More details see our Enforcement page.

Alternative Compliance

What about buildings that are already great energy performers?
We recognize that many building owners are making great strides toward achieving energy efficiency. To allow flexibility for owners, alternative compliance pathways are available, including for energy performance certifications (LEED O+M, ENERGY STAR, Living Building) or for completing work similar to a tune-up, such as a retro-commissioning project. See OSE Director's Rule 2016-01 for additional information.

Does ENERGY STAR certification count?
Yes, if your certified ENERGY STAR score (through U.S. EPA) applies to the whole building, and if your building has a qualifying score of 90 or above in buildings equal to or larger than 100,000 square feet and 85 or above in buildings less than 100,000 square feet. Qualifying certified ENERGY STAR scores must be attained in one of the two years prior to the building's compliance deadline.

For ENERGY STAR ratings - why is the rating not 75?
The ENERGY STAR score is a screening tool that helps assess how a building is performing. We have determined the high-performance threshold based on Seattle's benchmarking data. The required threshold reflects the top 20-25% of Seattle's buildings.

My building was certified LEED for new construction (LEED NC), does that count?
No, LEED NC Certification doesn't qualify. If your building meets LEED Gold or Platinum certification under LEED-Operation and Maintenance (O+M) with at least 17 Energy and Atmosphere credits for LEED v4 or current version, or LEED Gold or Platinum certification under LEED-Operation and Maintenance (O+M) with 15 Energy and Atmosphere credits under v2009 than you can pursue alternative compliance for demonstrating achievement of high performance.  

When ENERGY STAR updates the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) data, what will you do?
ENERGY STAR scores are in part established based on their relationship to CBECS baselines from 2003. As CBECS is updated, ENERGY STAR scores will change and we will monitor the update and adjust our alternative compliance thresholds if necessary to continue reflecting the top tier of Seattle buildings.

Tune-Up Specialist

What do Tune-Up Specialists do?
A Tune-Up Specialist is a person qualified to conduct a tune-up assessment, identify required corrective actions, verify that actions were completed, and in some cases, perform tune-up actions. It is the responsibility of the building owner to verify the qualifications of your Tune-Up Specialist. A building owner will be considered non-compliant if somebody who is NOT qualified conducts your tune-up. See How to Comply for details on required Tune-Up Specialist qualifications.  

Does one Tune-Up Specialist certification carry more weight than another?
No - all certifications are equal under the mandate. However, you may want to request references to learn how your tune-up specialist has performed for other clients.  

How do I find a Tune-Up Specialist?

  • Does your building have a regular maintenance contract? Check with them, they might be qualified to conduct a tune-up.
  • The Northwest Energy Efficiency Council maintains a list of firms with staff that meet the requirements of a Tune-Up Specialist. Inclusion on the list is voluntary and does not represent an endorsement by the City of Seattle.
  • Do your on-site staff meet the qualifications?  If so, they are eligible to serve as a Tune-Up Specialist.
  • Try searching for "MEP" - mechanical, electrical, plumbing - engineers.  

Can my own staff conduct a Tune-Up?
Yes, but only if they meet the Tune-Up Specialist qualifications. Tune-Up Specialists will need to provide evidence of their credentials when submitting the Tune-Up report to the City of Seattle.  

Are Tune-Up Specialists who do the walk through the same people who implement the corrective actions?
Maybe, but not necessarily - it depends on the work that needs to be done. Once the Tune-Up Specialist completes his/her report, they will present their findings to you. You may need operational fixes, or you may need to go to vendor-specific experts (like HVAC) for assistance.

Do I have to report everything my Tune-Up Specialist finds to the City?
No, we're not expecting the full level of detail that your Tune-Up Specialist provides to you, the owner. To be deemed compliant, a Tune-Up Specialist must submit a report online to the City, which is a summary of your assessment finding and actions.   

Can a qualified Tune-Up Specialist also provide me with my ENERGY STAR score?
Potentially, yes. Your Tune-Up Specialist could have the qualifications to provide you with an ENERGY STAR score. As part of the ENERGY STAR certification process, a building owner or manager is required to have a licensed professional verify that the information in their application is accurate and complete before it's submitted to the U.S. EPA. For more visit the EPA's website.