Improve Energy Efficiency

Reduce energy required by buildings

Efficiency is a matter of having high standards in our building codes, so that when new buildings are constructed, and when existing buildings are remodeled, they use less energy. In fact the cleanest energy, without environmental impact, is the “energy” you do not use. Efficiency is the best thing you can do and is often the most cost effective. It is certainly cheaper to do this when the building is being built rather than as a renovation. Efficiency also saves building operating costs each year, and reduces pollution by lowering the energy needed for heating.

For owners of commercial and multi-family buildings, the incentive for the building owner to do energy efficiency improvements is often low, because the tenants are typically paying the utility bills. However, often there can be large cost savings if this work is done. For owner occupied residential housing, there is a clear incentive for making improvements, but owners are frequently either unaware of the possibilities or may lack funds for improvements.

Existing Programs

The City and State both currently have a number of different energy efficiency programs: the State's Clean Buildings Act adopts a carrot and stick approach where owners of inefficient buildings are assessed fees, and but also given incentives for making improvements. Both the City and the State fund a weatherization program for residential housing. Seattle City Light has a new program, Energy Efficiency as a Service that allows commercial building owners, tenants, and efficiency companies to essentially all share the savings from improvements. The County also has adopted a C-PACER program that allows owners of commercial buildings to secure loans for energy efficiency upgrades.

The city's commercial building energy code supercedes and improves on what is in the state building code. We are hoping to get the state law amended so that the city may also supercede and improve on the state residential building energy code. When that happens, we would like to see a new city residential building energy code that increases efficiency as well as eliminating gas use in single family and smaller multi-family buildings.

Below is a chart of how much the State Energy Codes have reduced energy use in buildings as well as the present goals for reduction. The State needs to move faster than this to meet the GHG reduction targets.

From King County Strategic Climate Action Plan

The City is currently (2022) considering adopting Building Performance Standards that would drive reductions in the levels of greenhouse gas emissions per square foot. We believe this should be adopted. We also recommend adoption of these programs:

New buildings should be built to a high standard so they will not require too much energy to maintain.

Make it more affordable for building owners to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings and homes.

Make it easy and convenient to get financing to make energy efficiency improvements.