The Seattle Energy Diet

Source: Steve Wehrly, Seattle Business Magazine, December 2011. City’s new benchmarking law requires large commercial and multifamily buildings to disclose energy performance.

Seattle officials hope a new city law requiring owners to report on the energy efficiency of their commercial and multifamily buildings will drive owners to make buildings greener, thereby reducing operating costs and enhancing market competitiveness.

The city Building Energy Benchmarking and Reporting Ordinance went into effect October 3, requiring commercial and industrial buildings exceeding 50,000 square feet to establish, report and annually update efficiency benchmarks for their buildings. By next April 1, an additional 8,000 buildings that exceed 10,000 square feet must report energy usage. The information won’t exactly be posted on buildings like a food nutrition label, but it will be available from the city upon request.

Building owners will use the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager, a free online tool, to create a baseline of energy performance for buildings in the city. Because the reports must be disclosed to tenants, purchasers and lenders who request them, Seattle officials expect the benchmarks will bring energy efficiency to the forefront when people consider leasing or buying commercial and multifamily space.

This is also one of the goals of the new Seattle 2030 District program. Dedicated to halving carbon dioxide emissions and energy consumption in downtown Seattle buildings by 2030, the 2030 District is a business/government consortium that “aims to dramatically reduce environmental impacts” while “increasing Seattle’s competitiveness … and [the] owner’s return on investment.”

One 2030 District member, MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions, reports that targeted retrofitting of systems in one Seattle building resulted in a return on the owner’s investment in 1.7 years, and most such investments yield a return in three to five years.