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 in Seattle's existing commercial and multifamily buildings accounts for 35 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions from buildings in Seattle. 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 is developing 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. 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. We are currently exploring a Building Performance Standards policy to transition buildings towards greater efficiency and clean electricity. The approach builds on both the City's existing Energy Benchmarking and Tune-Up programs, as well as the new WA State energy performance standards. 

Benefits

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. With these new green jobs, the City is committed to ensuring equitable pathways for people of color and women.  

Process 

The City of Seattle is committed to working with stakeholders to maximize benefits to building owners and tenants and ensure that high quality jobs are equitably distributed among local residents, including low-income residents, women, and people of color. We recognize that developing a successful 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 upgrades. We are meeting with key stakeholders like building owners, managers, tenants, service providers, labor groups, community-based organizations, and others, to advance a collaborative process that creates a policy that works for all.