Washington state’s greenhouse gas emissions from buildings have jumped by 50-percent over the last 30-years, more than any other source in our state. The catalyst for this is likely the state’s explosive growth, particularly in Western Washington where Seattle and Bellevue have experienced unprecedented population growth and economic prosperity. All the new office and apartment buildings have come at a cost to the environment: building-related emissions account for 27-percent of the carbon pollution in the state. As a result, lawmakers and Governor (and presidential candidate ) Jay Inslee passed, signed, and funded a Clean Buildings Act in the most recent legislative session.  The bill sets to improve the energy performance of thousands of large commercial buildings in Washington.

The Clean Buildings Act requires buildings 50,000 square feet and larger throughout the state to meet an “energy utility index,” measured by energy use per square foot. Building owners will be able to decide which energy efficient measures they use to meet the standard, and there will be at least $75 million in a state-managed fund to help them comply.

Paladino can help building owners identify energy efficient measures in order to plan and design programs that meet the standard and reduce overall operating costs. (Learn more from our blog post Five strategies to improve energy performance in existing buildings.)

In addition, the law requires new buildings with parking to be EV-ready to serve electric vehicle charging with at least one space or 10-percent of the parking spaces available. Under the standard, a 100-car parking garage will need to dedicate at least 10 spaces for EV use and build out the electrical rooms to support charging for at least half of the spaces in the future. At the same time, Washington State is also going to require 100-percent of clean energy from its utilities by 2045, which will avoid the irony of charging electric vehicles with fossil fuels.

Multifamily buildings are not required to comply with the standard, but they will be eligible for financial incentives and technical assistance to encourage voluntary participation. The rules and incentives are still to be defined, and the state Energy Office is charged with developing and enacting the rules and incentives throughout the state. We support this emphasis on the existing built environment and are pleased that our Washington and the Seattle metro region will be joining Los Angeles and New York as leaders in greening urban environments.

While all of this is good news for the environment, Washington is still projected to fall short of its 2035 target for greenhouse gas emissions. The major culprit in our state continues to be GHG emissions from transportation. There is still more work to be done with transit oriented development and fossil fuel standards for cars. For now, we are celebrating victories for energy efficiency and greener buildings.


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  1. Great read, Between the Washington Energy Code and the Clean Buildings Act were off to a great start.

  2. And now the work comes in setting the rules and meeting the standards. I look forward to sharing more as this policy evolves.


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