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White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory Visits Seattle to Talk Buildings and Climate

The buildings we live and work in are responsible for more than 1/3rd of Seattle’s climate pollution, primarily due to the on-site burning of fossil fuels such as fracked gas and oil for heating, hot water and appliances. OSE’s Buildings & Energy team works to develop and implement policies and programs to mitigate climate change in the buildings space, which covers commercial, multi-family, residential, and even our own municipal facilities.

Chair Mallory at Hobson Place

On October 6th, OSE was thrilled to host Chair Brenda Mallory and staff from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), along with Seattle’s Finance and Administrative Services (FAS), City Light, and Office of Housing to talk about some of the work we are doing to improve the energy efficiency, and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Seattle’s building stock.

First up was a stop at the Seattle Justice Center, which hosts both the Seattle Police Headquarters and the Seattle Municipal Court. Seattle has been at the forefront nationally to increase building efficiency and reduce emissions in existing buildings through policies like Energy Benchmarking and Building Tune-Ups programs. Check out this Seattle Justice Center Case Study detailing how the building operations team and the Tune-Up Specialist team collaborated to go above and beyond on a suite of improvements to the Seattle Justice Center.

CEQ staff then joined OSE, City Light, and the Office of Housing at Hobson Place, a permanent supportive housing building and clinic. This building is using strategies to maximize efficiency, including electric heat pumps instead of fossil fuels, improved insulation, solar, and more, and is on track to be the first permanent supportive housing project in Washington State to achieve Passive House certification.

Both the Seattle Justice Center and Hobson place are examples of Seattle’s approach to meeting its climate goals in the building sector in action. With new construction, like Hobson Place, the City is working to stop buildings going up from incorporating fossil fuels in the systems. In February, Seattle updated its Commercial Energy Code to limit fossil fuels for most uses in new construction, substantial alterations, and when equipment is upgraded. And for existing buildings, we are working to transition away from gas-fired systems to efficient electric systems.

The next urgent priority for Seattle is to establish climate pollution standards, or building performance standards, for our largest existing commercial and multifamily buildings. Washington State has established innovative Clean Building Performance Standards to deepen the energy efficiency of existing commercial buildings. This is a great next step towards better performing buildings and we are very supportive of the state’s work, but in terms of GHG emissions from Seattle buildings, we project to see only approximately 4% reduction in overall building sector emissions. In contrast, by developing and implementing Seattle specific building performance standards, we expect to be able to reduce overall building emissions by 27%.

For more information about Building Performance Standards including more details about the Washington State law, check out OSE’s website: