Building Performance Standards

Building performance standards are energy or emissions targets that existing buildings must meet over time, reducing climate impacts. Washington State has passed building energy performance standards that are a significant catalyst for action, but alone are insufficient to move Seattle to a clean energy future.

Why Building Performance Standards Matter:

Burning fossil fuels for heating, hot water, and other uses such as cooking in Seattle's existing commercial and multifamily buildings accounts for approximately 85 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions from those buildings. These emissions degrade outdoor air quality and accelerate climate change, which disproportionately harms Black, Indigenous, and people of color, as well as children and seniors.

Under the new Clean Buildings for Washington law (HB 1257), the Washington State Department of Commerce has developed energy use intensity (EUI) targets for large commercial buildings (over 50,000 square feet), which will be updated over time. Owners of these buildings must first meet these energy performance standards between 2026 and 2028, depending on square footage of the building. Beginning in 2021, incentive funding is available for early adopters who have the furthest to go to meet EUI targets. The State building energy performance standards are a significant catalyst for action, but alone, they will not be sufficient to make Seattle buildings carbon-neutral.

The Mayor's 2018 Climate Action Strategy calls for Seattle specific Building Performance Standards to transition existing commercial and multifamily buildings off of fossil-fuels and onto clean electricity. The approach would complement the State energy performance standards and build on the City's existing Energy Benchmarking and Tune-Up programs.


Performance standards, phased in over time, provide flexibility for building owners to choose the technologies or operational strategies that are most cost-effective for them to meet the targets. Retrofitting commercial and multifamily buildings to be more energy efficient and to reduce climate pollution makes them healthier for people and the environment. Investments in building improvements create local, well-paying jobs at all levels - from roofers and electricians to plumbers and engineers.


Developing a successful Seattle Buildings Performance Standards policy will require understanding the challenges - technical, financial, operational, or otherwise - that building owners, managers, and tenants may face in making energy and electrification upgrades. The City of Seattle is committed to working with stakeholders to maximize benefits to building owners and tenants and to ensure equitable pathways to high quality green jobs for people of color and women.