Require new buildings to heat with clean energy

Background

New buildings, and buildings under extensive renovation, should use electricity in place of gas for heating. Gas heating equipment has a lifetime of around 15 years, and our goal is to be substantially fossil free by 2030, in less than 10 years. Switching from gas to electric can be costly, and buildings should constructed so they do not need extensive modification in their first decade.

Beyond the savings of GHG emissions, using electricity has other advantages as well. Recent studies have shown that pollutants released in kitchens with gas stoves often exceeds EPA limits. And many people find that electric heat pumps, which can be set to either cool or heat, make their homes substantially more comfortable.

Seattle has adopted new building codes that require electric space and water heating in new commercial and larger multi-family buildings. The code only applies to new buildings and still allows for gas cooking. Recently the State adopted similar building codes. We would like the code to eventually also require electricity for cooking.

The residential energy code needs to move in same direction but in Washington cities and counties are not allowed to modify the state's Residential Energy Code. The State could amend the law to allow cities to have their own stricter residential building codes. This would allow the city to require clean energy in homes without waiting for the state. There were bills before the Legislature on this in 2021 and 2022, but they failed to pass.

Embodied Carbon

Another concern is the amount of GHG emissions caused in the building process itself. We would like the building codes to introduce new standards around embodied carbon that will reduce the emissions required for constructing the building.

What Other Cities Have Done

Gas bans have been passed in San Francisco and Berkeley, CA; in Brookline, MA; and in Cambridge, MA.