Seattle Mayor Signs Building Emissions Performance Standard Legislation

Seattle Mayor Signs Building Emissions Performance Standard Legislation - Carbon Herald
Image: harrell.seattle.gov

Mayor Bruce Harrell signed the Seattle Building Emissions Performance Standard (BEPS) legislation into law – a bold policy to address the climate crisis and create cleaner buildings. The policy would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing large buildings by approximately 325,000 metric tons by 2050 – a 27% decrease in building-related emissions from a 2008 baseline or the equivalent of taking 72,322 gasoline-powered cars off the road for a year.

“The Building Emissions Performance Standards (BEPS) policy continues Seattle’s leadership on climate action and represents a milestone for our city’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build healthy communities,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “This bold legislation will not only create cleaner buildings for people to live, work, and play in, but also hundreds of local jobs and build pathways to careers in the green economy. I’m grateful to the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, Councilmember Herbold, and the broad coalition of environmental advocates, building owners, labor partners, affordable housing providers, and more who were involved in advancing this ambitious policy, representing our collective One Seattle commitment to a sustainable, more climate-resilient future for our city.”

The City of Seattle received input from hundreds of people during the process of developing the legislation, including residents, workers, community-based organizations, nonprofits, building owners and managers, tenants, labor representatives, environmental justice groups, affordable housing providers, and more, over nearly two years of meetings, open houses, webinars, advisory group and specialized task force sessions. The legislation was unanimously supported by City Council, in the Council’s Select Committee on Climate Action.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & South Park) said, “Addressing greenhouse gas emissions is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Future generations will look back to this moment and judge us by what we did today to address our climate crisis. We experience the impacts here in Seattle: extreme heat, drought, and forest fire haze during the summer and even autumn has become normal. It’s time for us to take big swings and make sure we’re doing everything we can – for ourselves and for all future generations of Seattleites. I’m proud to have had the opportunity to answer the call from Mayor Harrell, the Office of Sustainability and Environment, and advocates to sponsor and shepherd this legislation through the Council in our last weeks of 2023.”

“350 Seattle is delighted by the Committee for Climate Action’s decision to pass the Building Emissions Performance Standard,” said Shemona Moreno, Executive Director. “We hope it sets a precedent for future Green New Deal policies and appreciate the hard work and thoughtful partnership from the Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment. We need more climate policies like the BEPS; policies that meet Seattle’s climate goals while creating more green jobs, fostering climate resilience, affordable housing and transportation.”

Relevant: California Issues New Rules For Tackling Embodied Carbon In Building Construction

The Building Emissions Performance Standard Policy (BEPS) applies to existing nonresidential and multifamily buildings greater than 20,000 square feet. Key policy details include:

  • BEPS sets carbon-emissions targets for buildings that become progressively lower in five-year intervals until reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • Compliance starts with reporting requirements by 2027 that quantify building emissions, followed by requirements to meet emissions targets by 2031 (for the largest buildings).
  • The BEPS policy has flexible compliance pathways to accommodate buildings of many uses, size, type, ownership, age, and systems, with low-income housing and human services given a longer lead time to prepare.
  • With the passage of this legislation, the City’s Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE) will next conduct the required public process to develop the Director’s Rule, which will provide detailed compliance guidance for building owners. OSE expects this process to kick-off in Q2 2024 and wrap in 2025. OSE will concurrently issue early guidance to owners on how to estimate their building’s existing emissions and future emissions targets so that they can use this information to plan and implement emissions reduction projects.

Relevant: “Adaptavate Wants To Lead The Carbon Revolution And Enable Carbon Negative Building Materials Everywhere” – Thomas Robinson, Founder Of Adaptavate

“The Building Emissions Performance Standard legislation is one of the most impactful climate actions we can take to reduce emissions and is the result of years of collaboration with stakeholders across labor, affordable housing, environmental sectors, and more,” said Jessyn Farrell, Director of the Office of Sustainability & Environment. “With Mayor Harrell’s leadership and Council’s support, we are now one step closer toward creating a cleaner, healthier City for us all and look forward to working with and supporting building owners in this transition.”

Building owners and operators are also encouraged to check out the Seattle Clean Buildings Accelerator program which provides technical support and funding for upgrades and register for upcoming info sessions. Mayor Harrell included $4.5M per year to support the Accelerator program in the 2024 proposed budget for engineering and capital investments, prioritized for buildings in or serving frontline communities, as well as an additional $530,000 for BEPS implementation.

The Building Emissions Performance legislation was called for both in the City’s 2013 Climate Action plan and more recently in Mayor Harrell’s Downtown Activation Plan. The BEPS policy was developed to maximize benefits to building owners and tenants and to ensure equitable pathways to high quality green jobs, especially for people of color and women. The policy is forecasted to create hundreds of local jobs that cannot be outsourced and will support workers directly in the Seattle area.

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