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Seattle Energy Code Bests National Standard

green commercial buildingsA strong energy code is one of Seattle’s key tools for achieving significant reductions in energy use in the building sector and reaching the city’s ambitious goal of carbon neutrality. Seattle has consistently had one of the most advanced codes in the country and the new 2012 Seattle Energy Code is no exception. That’s the finding of a recently released study comparing Seattle’s Energy Code (SEC) to a national energy standard.

The report, Comparison of the 2012 Seattle Energy Code with ASHRAE 90.1-2010, shows that new buildings in Seattle can be expected to use, on average, 11.3% less energy than buildings nationwide, and to save 9.3% in energy costs. The study compares the 2012 Seattle Energy Code to the latest ASHRAE (American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers) energy standard for commercial buildings. ASHRAE 90.1-2010 is the basis for building energy codes nationwide and is the standard used by the US Green Building Council’s LEED green building rating system. The Seattle code was shown to be more effective at lowering a building’s energy use in almost every category studied.

“Seattle’s reputation for environmental leadership has grown in part because we hold ourselves accountable to a very high standard,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We will continue to push ourselves to achieve high environmental outcomes that benefit all Seattle residents.”

Highlights from the report show that the Seattle Energy Code requires:

  • much higher minimum insulation and window efficiency
  • buildings to meet maximum air leakage levels
  • full commissioning—which ensures mechanical systems are operating as designed
  • hourly metering of all energy sources and major end uses

Building energy accounts for 21% of Seattle’s greenhouse gas emissions and 40% nationwide. Improved building design and construction practices in Seattle have led to significant reductions in energy waste locally, and these regulations are frequently incorporated into subsequent regional and national codes.

“One of the best opportunities to improve building energy performance and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is at the time of construction,” said Jill Simmons, Director of the Office of Sustainability & Environment. “Seattle’s strong energy code is a powerful tool to ensure that new buildings are designed to be energy efficient for decades to come.”

Diane Sugimura, Director of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development, noted that “Seattle’s energy code not only supports our environmental goals, but it helps building owners and tenants save money and supports a growing market for green building and technology.”