Featured in AWC Magazine | How municipal buildings can meet WA's new Clean Buildings Standard

Bonnie Frye Hemphill

Director, Policy & Partnerships

30 September 2021

Originally featured in Cityvision | The Association of Washington Cities Magazine

In 2019 Governor Jay Inslee signed HB 1257 into law. Also known at the Clean Building law, this legislation gave the Department of Commerce (DOC) authority to develop and implement energy performance standards for non-residential buildings greater than 50,000 square feet in floor area, with the intent of encouraging more energy-efficient structures and reducing costs and pollution from fossil fuel use.

Existing non-residential buildings are among Washington State’s primary consumers of energy, and together they produce over a quarter of our state’s total carbon pollution. The new Clean Buildings Standard provides both incentives to encourage early adoption and penalties for noncompliance. The law applies to both public and privately-owned buildings.

When and how will the Clean Buildings Standard take effect?

Many buildings will need several years of dedicated improvements to comply with the law on schedule, including a year’s worth of data showing compliance. Compliance with the Clean Buildings Standard is tiered by a building’s amount of conditioned space, but deadlines begin in 2026 (see “Sizable Task,” at left TK). Sound far away? There are incentives for early adoption and substantial penalties for failure to comply.

Building managers should start now by benchmarking a facility’s Energy Use Intensity (EUI) against the building’s statutory EUI target (EUIt). Benchmarking puts you in position to apply for early-adopter incentives, seek low-cost options toward timely compliance, or even give you enough time to implement substantial infrastructure upgrades if needed ahead of your compliance deadline.

Earn incentives, avoid penalties

The Early Adoption Incentive fund is a limited pool of $75 million dollars to be allocated rapidly on a first-come, first-served basis. The incentive for individual buildings is $0.85 per square foot and is additional to other energy efficiency incentives through utilities and any grants your building may also be eligible to receive.

Start your planning now: buildings that fail to meet compliance with the Clean Buildings Standard by their statutory deadlines will face a substantial penalty of up to $5,000 + $1 per square foot.

Utilize the Energy Services Performance Contracting program

Washington State administers an Energy Savings Performance Contracting (ESPC) program for public entities. This program saves you internal resources by essentially providing an extension of staff with agency-vetted firms. The ESPC process delivers guaranteed energy savings and equipment performance, all at a guaranteed cost for your public facility. ESPC is easy, effective, and affordable.

Simplify the business case, and benchmark your energy use today

Do you know your building’s benchmark EUI target? Add life to your building, cut energy bills, take the lead on green jobs in our region, avoid penalties, and earn incentives. Take action now for your public building to meet the challenge of Washington’s new Clean Buildings Standard.

Sizable Task

Compliance deadlines for the Clean Buildings Standard vary by space, but they are arriving quickly if your facility requires substantial upgrades.

  • Buildings greater than 220,000 square feet must comply by June 1, 2026.
  • Buildings greater than 90,000 square feet must comply by June 1, 2027.
  • Buildings greater than 50,000 square feet must comply by June 1, 2028.

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