Sharing Transparency for a More Efficient Future


Seattle, Washington, photo by cpaulfell
Policy Description:

In January 2010, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed Council Bill 116731, an ordinance that requires benchmarking and disclosure for nonresidential and multifamily buildings 20,000 square feet (sf) or greater. The ordinance expands on the Green Building Capital Initiative, a comprehensive strategy proposed in 2009 by former Mayor Greg Nickels to reduce the climate impact from Seattle's homes and buildings. The design of the benchmarking requirement is based on proposals from the City of Seattle's Green Building Task Force. The 50-member group of public- and private-sector stakeholders met in 2008 and 2009 to generate policy recommendations for achieving energy efficiency and consumption reduction targets laid out in the Green Building Capital Initiative. Their findings were issued in April 2009 and incorporated into legislation that was ultimately signed by Mayor Mike McGinn on Feb. 1, 2010. The Seattle policy compliments a transactional commercial rating program in Washington State. Seattle Council Bill 117575 was passed as an amendment to the original bill on September 17th, 2012, raising the square footage threshold to 20,000 sf and restructuring enforcement of the requirement. Owners of nonresidential and multifamily buildings must benchmark energy performance with Energy Star Portfolio Manager and annually report their results to the Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment, and disclose upon request to transactional parties. Building owners must disclose a Statement of Energy Performance from their EPA ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager account to current tenants as well as prospective buyers, tenants, and lenders. Seattle Energy Benchmarking Helpline - (; 206-727-8484

In March 2016, the Seattle City Council passed Council Bill 118630 amending the Building Energy Benchmarking and Reporting Program to make benchmarking reports available to the public. The amendment also orders utilties to upload aggregated utility consumption data into an owner's Energy Star Portfolio Manager account provided written authorization from a representative of the owner.

In March 2016, Seattle City Council passed Council Bill 118631. The ordinance requires owners of nonresidential buildings greater than or equal to 50,000 square feet to complete a tune-up of buildings once every five years.

A building tune-up is defined as:

1. An inspection of building energy and water systems conducted by a qualified tune-up specialist and resulting in a report of findings and recommendations for improving building energy operations; and

2. Actions taken to optimize energy and water performance by implementing all low-cost adjustments and minor repairs to existing buildings’ energy and water systems as determined by the Office of Sustainability & Environment Director.

Enacted Date:
Authority in Charge:
Director of the Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment
Tool Name:
ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager
Building Types Affected Size Compliance Deadline
Multi-Family, Non-Residential, Public/Government Greater Than or Equal To 50,000 Sq. Feet 2012-10-01
Multi-Family, Non-Residential, Public/Government Greater Than or Equal To 20,000 Sq. Feet 2013-04-01
Buildings subject to the Seattle Residential Code are exempt. Per the Director's Rule, buildings used primarily for manufacturing or industrial purposes are also exempt from all benchmarking, disclosure, and reporting requirements. Compliance for multifamily and nonresidential buildings less than 20,000 square feet is encouraged, but is voluntary.
Number of Buildings Affected:
Floor Area Affected:
281,200,000 Sq. Feet
Required Transparency:
Transparency Method:
Public Website, Report to Recipient
Public Website, Tenants, Buyers, Lenders
Transparency Trigger:
Point of Transaction
Transparency Trigger Events:
Purchase/sell (on demand), Rent (on demand), Financing
Seattle requires benchmarking reports be shared at time of transaction as well as on a public website on an annual basis.
Required Reporting:
Reporting Trigger:
Date Certain
Reporting Frequency:

Utility Requirements/Support:

Utility Requirements/Support:
Upon written or secure electronic authorization by an authorized representative of the building owner, the utility providing energy service to the building must upload the utility consumption data for the accounts to Energy Star Portfolio Manager.




Compliance Enforcement:
Penalties for Non-Compliance:
Penalties accrue quarterly, starting 90 days after reporting deadlines. Buildings 50,000 SF or greater: $1,000/quarter. Buildings greater than or equal to 20,000 SF and less than 50,000 SF: $500/quarter
Number of Buildings in Compliance:
Area of Buildings in Compliance:
267,200,000 Sq. Feet
Compliance Rate (Based on # of Buildings):
99.2 (2013)
Compliance Rate (Based on Building Area):
99.4% (2013)
This compliance data is for the 2013 energy reporting year. Non-Residential: 1,651 buildings (99% compliance) with 178.6 million square feet (99.2% compliance). Multifamily: 1,565 buildings (99.5% compliance) with 102.4 million square feet (99.7% compliance).
Additional Program Information:
Seattle's policy requires "tune-ups" of nonresidential buildings greater than or equal to 50,000 gross square feet. Though the term is different, the process it describes is roughly equivalent to retro-commissioning. In the case of mixed-use buildings, the owner must perform a tune-up only on the nonresidential portion of the building if that portion is greater than or equal to 50,000 square feet. Tune-Ups are required every 5 years. Owners must implement all Tune-Up measures predicted to pay back in 2-3 years. Performance Exemptions: High certified Energy Star Score; Green Building Certification equivalent to LEED EBOM Gold or Living Future Institute Net-Zero; Evidence of continuous commissioning; Completion of an approved utility RCx program; 15% energy savings within 3 years of due date; Completion of ASHRAE Level 2 audit and implemented all cost-effective measures; Participation in Seattle City Light Energy Assistance Analysis program and implemented cost-effective measures
Water Use Tracking: