Building Codes

Seattle Floats Scaling Back Energy Code Changes to Cut Housing Costs

Though energy efficiency is essential for meeting climate goals and studies show that they will save consumers money on heating and electric bills in the long run, the industry is experiencing pushback on builder code updates and even reversals of the bills put into place.

For example, in Seattle, Washington, Mayor Bruce Harrell is proposing that Seattle not implement a planned update to its multifamily and commercial building energy code in attempt to reduce construction costs – the main concern amongst builders. The update was set to take effect later this year. In an attempt to break past practices, Seattle has adopted a more stringent energy code than the statewide standard, which sets a trend of increased energy efficiency that pushed statewide standards even further. Seattle would only go so far as the 2021 Washington State Energy Code under this proposal, which took effect earlier this year elsewhere in the state with some Seattle-specific changes.

According to The Urbanist, This move, which could advance as soon as next month, comes after strong signals from leaders in the executive branch that they are interested in reducing hurdles to construction in areas of the city that currently allow apartment buildings. A move towards a more pro-housing approach, which so far has mostly manifested itself in the form of small, targeted upzones around Downtown and Belltown, comes as the Harrell Administration faces considerable pushback stemming from a reluctance to open up new areas of the city for denser growth, as part of the major update to the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

The standards for new buildings could come on the heels of an ambitious plan for emissions reductions in Seattle’s existing buildings, signed by Mayor Harrell late last year.

To read more about this specific energy code battle, please read here.