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Seattle Passes Ordinance Requiring Big Building "Tune-ups"

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray applauded the City Council on March 7 for passing building energy legislation that propels Seattle into an elite group of cities with progressive policies aimed at driving energy efficiencies and reducing climate impacts.

“Buildings are the second largest source of climate pollution in Seattle and reducing their emissions is critical to meeting our city’s ambitious climate goals,” said Mayor Murray. “Our legislation will ensure that our existing, older commercial buildings are high performing, helping to create jobs and reduce operating expenses for building owners and tenants as they get their regular ‘tune-ups.’ I applaud the Council for passing this legislation to build a more livable, healthy, and sustainable city.”

Seattle’s new energy legislation addresses three distinct areas:

  • Building Energy Transparency
    The proposed Benchmarking Amendments ordinance updates Seattle’s existing building energy benchmarking law to include public transparency of energy performance. Transparency of this data has been shown to be a critical tool in other cities in reducing energy use.
  • Building Tune-Ups
    The proposed 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 would identify and correct no- or low-cost changes 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.
  • City Leadership
    The building community looks to the City to take a leadership role with its own facilities and to model actions before placing expectations onto the private market. 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.

“Seattle was one of the first cities to adopt a benchmarking law and it is again setting an example for cities around the country with its tune-up policy to ensure that buildings are operating at their most efficient,” said Cliff Majersik, Executive Director of the Institute for Market Transformation, a national non-profit that promotes market-based solutions to advance energy efficiency in buildings. “The benefits of energy efficient buildings are tremendous and Seattle’s approach is a great way to drive progress in the building sector.”

“Demonstrable City leadership is critical when it comes to asking the private sector to alter their approach,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “The fact that these new policies call for City compliance ahead of private sector deadlines underscores the fact that Seattle considers energy efficiency a priority. I look forward to seeing City buildings become more energy efficient and sharing our successes and lessons learned with the community.”

“Seattle has long been a leader in developing new strategies to reduce carbon pollution while also growing our economy,” said Jessica Finn Coven, Director of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment. “This legislation continues this tradition and keeps our city on track to meet the ambitious target of being carbon neutral by 2050.”

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