Living Building and 2030 Challenge Pilots Effective August 1

Seattle’s buildings produce about one-third of our greenhouse gases. Reducing these emissions are critical in achieving our goal to become a carbon-neutral community by 2050. To help achieve that goal, SDCI’s updated Living Building Pilot and new 2030 Challenge Pilot go into effect on August 1. The Living Building Pilot can be used for new and existing buildings. The 2030 Challenge Pilot is focused on development that includes existing buildings.

Mayor Durkan signed legislation that created the 2030 Challenge Existing Building Pilot Program and updated the Living Building Pilot Program on July 2, 2018. After signing the legislation, Mayor Durkan released the following statement:

“Seattle has always invented the future and the creation of this new pilot further establishes us as a leader combating the negative impacts of climate change. Our city doesn’t have the luxury of entertaining climate change denial. With building energy as a leading cause of pollution, our City can remain on the leading edge of construction and operation of buildings that meet the highest green standards while fostering a healthy environment.”

Developers that are constructing new buildings or building additions that meet the program standards can get the following benefits:

  • Up to 25 percent more floor area
  • Up to 30 percent more floor area if saving an unreinforced masonry structure
  • 5 feet of additional height for residential construction or 15 feet of additional height for non-residential construction in zones with height limits of 85 feet or less
  • 25 feet of additional height for residential construction or 30 feet of additional height for non-residential construction in zones with height limits greater than 85
  • Additional design departures for the pilot programs as specified in SMC 23.41.012D


Both pilots are performance-based; developers are required to conduct post-occupancy monitoring to show that the environmental goals have been met.   The green building program standards that are the basis of these pilots focus on different aspects of the environment, but both require a minimum energy reduction of 25 percent.  Both pilots require developers to participate in the Design Review Program so the project is a better fit with neighborhoods.

The 2030 Challenge Pilot:

  • Allows up to 20 projects that include renovation and preservation of portions of an existing building
  • Requires projects to be located within an urban center, excluding any lots located in the Shoreline District or within the International Special Review District
  • Requires specific standards for energy, water, and transportation efficiency
  • Prohibits the use of on-site combustion of fossil fuel for space and water heating


The Living Building Pilot:

  • Allows up to 17 projects (three projects have already submitted MUP applications)
  • Applies citywide, excluding any lots located in the Shoreline District.
  • Requires specific standards for energy and water efficiency, and requires either full Living Building Certification or Petal Certification
  • Prohibits the use of on-site combustion of fossil fuel for space and water heating.


More information can be found on our Priority Green webpage.   If you are interested in participating in these programs, please request green building information on your land use pre-submittal application.

Any questions may be directed to:

Jess Harris
Green Building Program Manager

New Arts Permit Liaison

Last year SDCI, the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD), and others collaborated with the Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS) on the creation of The CAP Report: 30 Ideas for the Creation, Activation, and Preservation of Cultural Space.

One of those “30 Ideas” was to create an Arts Permit Liaison position at SDCI. This new role is designed to help shepherd cultural space projects through the permitting process. SDIC’s Jeff McHegg is filling that role. He has been working with artists exploring home studio options, theater companies hoping to mount shows in warehouses, and even a beloved neighborhood cinema hoping to launch a new screening room… on the roof.

If you have a cultural space project, no matter how well formed or how speculative, you should contact Jeff. From identifying alternative paths to compliance for projects stuck at seemingly insurmountable code hurdles, to strategizing solutions to land use, building code, or other issues, Jeff can help. He can bring the resources of SDCI, ARTS, and OPCD to bear on your project.

We look forward to building connections between the cultural community and the world of code compliance. We want to demystify the experience of working with SDCI as a non-building professional.  A thriving arts and cultural scene in Seattle is part of what makes Seattle one of the country’s most livable cities. We’d like to keep it that way.

For more information, contact:

Jeff McHegg
Arts Permit Liaison

Message from SDCI’s Director

The recent launch of our new permitting, complaint, and inspection software did not meet our expectations for effectiveness and service. Customers were initially unable to access or use the system and had trouble contacting us for help.  We took immediate steps to correct these issues, working with our partners in Seattle Information Technology (Seattle IT) to stabilize the system and add resources to the response teams. We continue to identify and correct other issues. Still, we know that this rocky roll-out had a negative impact on our customers and the public and I am very sorry about that. We’re working hard to make this right.

Many of you have asked why we changed systems in the first place, noting that our new system doesn’t do many of the things the old system did. This was a difficult choice to make, but I believe it was the correct call. Our old system was extremely out of date, no longer supported by the vendor, and failing. Our collection of custom applications that made the system more efficient were difficult to update and maintain. We also wanted to be part of a City-wide platform with more integrated services and a single interface for customers. We wanted better automation and greater process efficiencies, and better tracking. For those and other reasons, we chose a flexible, off-the-shelf system that had most of our desired functions and that could be improved over time. Right now, we’re prioritizing system enhancements that we’ll implement over the next several months.

The new system is a big change for our customers and for staff. There are several ways for customers to get help using the new system. The Seattle Services Portal has a robust Help Center that we update with new articles based on the questions you ask and the feedback you provide. We’ll be adding short videos on selected topics and we’ve just recently posted a robust FAQ. If you still need help, see our list of contacts.

Our staff continue to work hard to meet your expectations for timely and effective service. In addition to the new software, we continue to experience record high demand for permits. Our production timelines have extended beyond normal since the system launch, but we’re making progress.

I appreciate your patience as we make the transition to our new system. While the initial launch was rocky, I’m committed to finding solutions to improve the system to better serve our customers and the public.

Nathan Torgelson
SDCI Director

Changes to Design Review Now in Effect

On July 1, many of the Design Review program changes that were adopted in Ordinance 125429, in October 2017, went into effect. The changes included:

  • New requirements for early community outreach for all projects going through Design Review
  • Changes to the thresholds that determine which projects are required to go through Design Review
  • The type of Design Review that would be required


SDCI and the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON) also published a final joint Director’s Rule that expands on the new community outreach requirement.

Information Sessions

We will be hosting two Reddit “Ask Me Anything” sessions online:

  • July 10, 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
  • August 14, 8:00 – 9:00 a.m.

Find us on Reddit’s AMA board day-of, or under DON’s username SEA_Neighborhoods.


For questions about how the new requirements may impact a specific development project, please contact:

Lisa Rutzick, SDCI
(206) 386-9049


For questions about the requirements for early community outreach, please contact:

Danielle Friedman, DON

New Washington State Building Council Fees in Effect Starting July 1

Washington state law authorizes the Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) to impose a fee on residential and commercial building permits issued by local government agencies, plus an additional surcharge for each residential unit after the first unit (RCW 19.27.085). Each Washington county and city is required to send the money collected for this purpose to the state treasurer on a quarterly basis. SDCI has always added this fee and any related surcharges to building permits issued by the City of Seattle.

State law further specifies that the legislature may adjust these charges every four years, although the fee has not changed in several decades. This spring the state legislature established new SBCC fees, effective on July 1, 2018. The fee is increasing from $4.50 on each building permit (plus a $2 additional surcharge on each residential unit after the first unit) to $6.50 on each residential building permit and $25 on each commercial building permit. The $2 additional surcharge remains the same for both residential and commercial. The fees will be automatically added in our permitting system when building permits are issued.