Seattle’s Large Buildings Becoming More Energy Efficient

How can we really tell if Seattle is becoming more energy efficient? And why is that important?

Seattle is committed to accelerating energy efficiency improvements because the more we reduce our energy use, the more we reduce our impact on the climate. The primary way we measure our progress in energy efficiency is through the data submitted to the City as part of Seattle’s Benchmarking Ordinance. Seattle buildings 20,000 sq.ft. or larger are required to track energy performance and annually report to the City.

A recent analysis shows that Seattle building energy use is moving in the correct direction – which is down. Collectively, Seattle’s benchmarked buildings show a 2.7% decrease in energy consumption from 2014 to 2015, after adjusting for differences in weather.

The figure below shows the downward trend in the median site Energy Use Intensity (EUI), or energy use per square foot between 2014 and 2015, for Seattle’s most common benchmarked building types. These building types—office, multifamily, and retail buildings—alone make up nearly 50% of Seattle’s benchmarked energy use. Of the 24 building types analyzed in total, 20 showed a decrease in median site EUI between 2014 and 2015. These findings suggest that the decrease from 2014 to 2015 is widespread across Seattle’s buildings rather than limited to a small subset of building types.

The trend over the last two years is encouraging, but Seattle still has a lot of work to do. Buildings are responsible for 33% of Seattle’s core greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The City of Seattle is aiming for a 39% reduction in building-related emissions by 2030. In order to achieve those GHG reductions by 2030, we need to reduce our commercial building energy use by 10% and our residential energy use by 20%.

As demonstrated by this analysis, existing buildings have decreased their energy use. The challenge lies with the fact that energy use from new buildings is cutting into the savings. Last year, 72 new buildings were added using a total of nearly 300 million kBtus of energy—the equivalent of adding three Columbia Centers to Seattle. At the same time, the buildings included in Seattle’s recent benchmarking analysis decreased their energy consumption by around 450 million kBtu. That means around two-thirds of the decrease in energy consumption among Seattle’s existing buildings was offset by energy consumption by new buildings. As Seattle is in the midst of a major construction boom, aggressively pursuing energy efficiency in both new and existing buildings is key to meeting our climate goals.

Interested in seeing how your building compares to other similar buildings in Seattle, check out the Energy Benchmarking Dashboard to see how your building stacks up.

Enter your building’s ENERGY STAR score or EUI to find out!