Seattle Dives Deeper Into Energy Efficiency of Its Buildings

This week, the owners of 8000 buildings will receive letters informing them about Seattle’s new building energy efficiency program. 

Those letters will go to building owners and managers of non-residential buildings larger than 10,000 square feet and multifamily buildings with five or more units. They will be required to benchmark and report on their building energy performance by April 1, 2012.

It will affect a wide range of building types – offices, schools, restaurants, retail outlets – which constitute a significant portion of Seattle’s building stock.

Benchmarking how much energy their building uses – and wastes – will help them identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency and increase savings.

This is the second phase of Seattle’s Building Energy Benchmarking and Reporting Program, which until now, has applied only to nonresidential buildings over 50,000 sq. ft. 

The City is working to ensure that all buildings are benchmarked on an annual basis, and that building energy use information is available to potential tenants, buyers and lenders during real estate transactions. That way, building owners, businesses and residents can make more informed, cost-conscious decisions when upgrading, buying or renting property.  

Seattle has developed educational materials – including hands-on training workshops, webinars and a step-by-step "How To" guide – to help owners with benchmarking and provide them information on utility energy-saving programs, rebates and other financial incentives to save energy.

Local utilities will make ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager available to them, where building owners can see their building’s energy performance and how it stacks up against similar buildings.

"The more information and knowledge you have about your building’s energy performance, the more power you have to control it, " says Lynda Carey, Construction and Asset Manager at Bellwether, an affordable housing organization in Seattle.

"The key is education. Once an owner understands how their building is performing and how improving energy efficiency impacts their bottom line and productivity, most jump right in and start making improvements," says Kevin Dingle, President of Sustaining Structures.  

"Part of managing properties properly is providing as much cash flow to investors as possible. And a big part of that is managing utility costs," says John Speirs, Senior Vice President at KG Investments, a local real estate investment and property management company that regularly benchmarks its properties. "Energy is one of our largest expenses. The lower we can keep our energy costs, the more we can bring to the bottomline, and the better our return on investment."

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