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Seattle Launches Building Energy Disclosure Program

Seattle commercial buildings will have their energy performance benchmarked and energy ratings available to prospective buyers, tenants and lenders, under an initiative launched yesterday.

The City of Seattle sent letters to more than 800 large commercial property owners and managers yesterday, informing them about the citywide program designed to help owners and managers assess and improve building energy efficiency and spur the market for building energy retrofits.

The program was created by the Seattle Building Energy Benchmarking and Reporting legislation (Ordinance 123226), passed in January 2010. This requires commercial and multifamily building owners to conduct annual energy performance tracking through the U.S. EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager, a free online benchmarking tool. The tool is a also pre-requisite for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating for existing buildings.

Upon request, building owners will be required to release building energy performance information to any current or prospective tenant, buyer, or lender involved with a real estate transaction, a lease, or an application for financing or refinancing of the building. Owners must also authorize the City of Seattle to download annual energy performance data for each building.

The program first applies this fall to nonresidential buildings 50,000 sq. ft. or larger, and extends to both nonresidential and multifamily residential buildings 10,000 sq. ft. or larger next April.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings consume more than 70 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. and could be made 30 to 50 percent more energy efficient with currently available products and services. The City of Seattle says 26 percent of Seattle’s greenhouse gas emissions are produced from buildings.

But the city government argues that many property owners and managers don’t know how well or poorly their buildings use energy or how their building’s energy performance compares to similar buildings.  The city also said that consumers have no way to compare the energy performance of buildings they hope to buy or rent.

“Seattle’s buildings provide one of the greatest opportunities to generate energy savings and boost economic development for the city.  This new program will help building owners take a key step toward increasing building energy efficiency, which, in turn, helps lower operating costs, makes buildings more competitive and creates good local jobs,” Department of Planning and Development director Diane Sugimura said.

Picture credit: KM&G-Morris

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