The Washington state legislature has approved a statewide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector. HB 1257, Clean Buildings for Washington Act includes development of an existing building standard that applies to non-residential buildings along with hotels, motels, and dormitories greater than 50,000 square feet in size. The program will start with a voluntary phase – supported with a $75 million incentive pool – followed by mandatory requirements in 2026-2028. Multifamily buildings are eligible for funding during the voluntary phase to improve their performance, but will not be subject to the later mandatory requirements.
The program will target buildings that perform worse than the average buildings of their type based on the energy use index (EUI) measured through an Energy Star Benchmarking score. The Washington Department of Commerce will develop program rules over the next year, with the voluntary program beginning in July 2021.
The program will be performance-based, allowing building owners to determine the best approaches to reducing the EUI of their buildings. ASHRAE Standard 100 will provide the general protocol to address energy efficiency for the buildings. The $75 million in financial support is designed to be incremental to other available resources, such as utility energy efficiency programs. About 35 percent of the floor area of covered building types will be seeking energy use reductions to meet program requirements. Early implementation is encouraged and anticipated based on the availability of incentives and desire to avoid regulations.
The mandatory requirements will kick-in for the 2026-2028 time period for buildings that use more energy than their peers and have failed to demonstrate progress. Fines for non-participation are authorized up to $1 per square foot per year.
The bill also requires natural gas utilities to identify and acquire all conservation that is available and cost-effective and encourages gas utilities to acquire renewable natural gas. The state building code will also require that all new buildings that provide onsite parking provide electric vehicle charging facilities.
Addressing the existing buildings market is a primary requirement to reduce carbon from the buildings sector. The Washington program uses an established metric based on site energy use that could encourage but does not require decarbonization. Washington state is served by relatively inexpensive electric power with an already strong renewable energy component of existing hydro and newer wind farms. Unsurprisingly, electric heat in all forms is fairly common. It will be fascinating to see how the market develops to serve this more aggressive program for larger buildings, and especially what level of decarbonization occurs as a result.
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