Seattle’s Buildings Are Using Less Energy

How can we 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. One key way we measure our progress in building 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 the energy use of Seattle’s benchmarked buildings 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, a decrease of around 450 million kBtu. The City’s own portfolio of buildings has reduced energy use by approximately 4.5% through a focused effort on conservation aimed at reaching our goal for a 20% reduction from 2008 to 2020.

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. The median site EUI decreased across all these building types, from 0.4 to 3.8 kBtu per square foot between 2014 and 2015. 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 total 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%, even as the City’s population, jobs and building stock continues to grow.

Strong energy codes encourage efficiency in new buildings, but the added square footage still increases the total building energy use across the City. Last year, 72 new buildings were added which combined use a total of nearly 300 million kBtus of energy per year—the equivalent of adding three Columbia Centers to Seattle. 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!