GLY Think. Blog

keeping up with the code

Another round of energy code updates looms large over the Puget Sound region, including the 2018 Seattle Energy Code [SEC], the 2018 WA State Energy Code [WSEC] for commercial buildings, and Washington state’s new Energy Performance Standard for [Existing] Commercial Buildings. GLY is preparing for a smooth adoption by absorbing as much insight as possible from our industry cohorts. In early April, a group of us attended the NAIOP Sustainability Webinar: Energy Code and Retrofit Legislation to learn more from the experts at McKinstry, Rushing, and the City of Seattle. Here are the highlights along with our takeaways and links in-line for more information.

notable changes
  • Buildings must pass new Building Envelope Air Barrier Test standards, achieving an air-leakage rating of 0.25 cfm/ft² at 0.3 inches water gauge or below.
  • Buildings must sub-meter energy used by EV charging stations, which is considered transportation energy instead of building energy.
  • In accordance with the WSEC, most building occupancies [per Table C406] must meet at least six [6] credits.
  • City of Seattle buildings must meet eight [8] credits.
  • City of Seattle buildings cannot use fossil fuel.
  • Buildings over 50,000 square feet must meet new energy use intensity [EUI] targets. The Department of Commerce [the Authority Having Jurisdiction, AHJ] will set new EUI targets by November 1, 2020, using the ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 100-2018 as the model.
  • The WSEC includes new requirements for Total Building Performance Annual Source Carbon usage. Carbon emissions shall be calculated by multiplying site energy consumption by the carbon emission factors from Table C407.
  • All updates incorporate the Washington Clean Buildings Act [HB 1257, RCW 19.27].
  • New protocol for a proposed building energy model [not to be confused with the baseline energy model]. The energy model must show estimated energy use below the energy budget.*

*The new modeling protocol will not meet current LEED energy modeling requirements; however, the U.S. Green Building Council is working on a Beta credit to meet ASHRAE 90.1 2019. You can expect to see this in LEED V4.1.

improvements specific to the SEC
  • The 2018 SEC is a 9% improvement over the 2006 baseline, based on a 50-year building lifecycle.
  • The update includes 125 significant changes for 31% energy savings over the 2006 code.
code adoption
  • The Seattle Department of Construction + Inspections [SDCI] planned to adopt the new codes on July 1, 2020. Due to several factors, including the impacts of COVID-19 and Governor Inslee’s executive order, the adoption is delayed to November 1, 2020.
  • The standards set by the Energy Performance Standard for [Existing] Commercial Buildings will be a voluntary efficiency incentive program from 2021 to 2026. Beginning in 2026, the standard will be mandatory.
  • It’s important to note that while residential buildings must meet the WSEC, local jurisdictions cannot implement further requirements. Commercial buildings are a different story. Each jurisdiction has the opportunity to be more stringent than the WSEC for commercial buildings.
key takeaways
  • One of the greatest benefits of this code update is the opportunity to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Lowering our overall energy usage and increasing building efficiencies will promote change on a global scale.
  • Solar and wind power are highly viable solutions with significantly lower impact on essential natural ecosystems. They are renewable and cleaner to produce than coal, oil, or natural gas. They are also more resilient to market volatility and therefore more predictable economically and, most importantly, do not endanger community health.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a harsh light on the vulnerability of populations exposed to poor air quality for prolonged periods of time. We see the 2018 Energy Code updates as a path towards a healthier future for the Pacific Northwest.
  • The updated code may involve increased capital expenditure up front, but in the long run will lead to lower operating costs over the life of the building and healthier air quality in the downtown core. The positive long term implications for community health and our essential natural ecosystems are incalculable.

GLY is a strong advocate for improved building performance and healthier environments. There are many solutions available to achieve the new code requirements and we will collaborate with our clients and partners to implement the new code updates seamlessly and effectively.

Have questions? Give us a call or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.


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