SEATTLE (August 24, 2016) – Mayor Ed Murray transmitted to Council a package of innovative policies aimed at keeping Seattle at the forefront of energy efficiency solutions in the residential and commercial building sectors. The legislative package includes provisions that expand the Living Buildings Challenge (LBC) and updates Seattle’s building and energy codes to reduce energy use in new commercial construction and expand solar ready housing.

“Changing our approach to design and construction is critical to achieving the City’s environmental goals,” said Murray. “Living Buildings demonstrate how innovative urban design is a key tool in the fight against climate change. The energy code changes lay the foundation for expanded conservation in the future, continuing Seattle’s position as a national leader on green and energy efficient buildings.”

The Living Building program legislation expands on a pilot program started in 2009 and increases the number of buildings that can participate. The LBC is the world’s most rigorous sustainable building certification program. It is a performance-based approach – as opposed to a modeled performance – and aims to foster the development of buildings that contribute positively to their surroundings by mimicking ecological processes such as capturing and treating all stormwater and producing as much energy as it uses.

“Seattle’s built environment represents a huge opportunity to impact how our city addresses climate change as energy use from commercial buildings represent 18 percent of our city’s total greenhouse gas emissions The effects of climate change require us to take the kind of bold and expedient action found in these policies,” added Councilmember Rob Johnson. “I look forward to Seattle leading by example to create many more living buildings to reduce our carbon footprint.”

“The International Living Future Institute applauds the expansion of the Living Building Challenge in Seattle,” said Amanda Sturgeon, CEO of the International Living Future Institute. “Living Buildings represent the most advanced measure of sustainability possible today and it’s fitting that Seattle, a city on the vanguard of sustainability and environmental protection, proposes these updates.”

“After transportation fuels, the next greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Seattle comes from heating and cooling our buildings. Increasing the number of highly efficient green buildings is essential for combating climate change,” said Denis Hayes, president and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation and developer of Seattle’s first Living Building. “This suite of policies is a call to action for all local developers to be bold and to do their part in making Seattle more sustainable even as the city grows.”

Among other changes to the Seattle Energy Code and the Seattle Residential Code is a requirement that commercial buildings up to 20 stories in height and residential buildings up to three stories in height reserve rooftop space to be “solar ready” for future equipment installation. This will speed the development of rooftop solar energy in Seattle by minimizing future installation costs. The effective date for the proposed energy and building code updates will occur on January 1, 2017.

The Seattle Energy Code legislation also takes a significant step toward Seattle’s 2050 carbon-neutral goal by mandating more efficient heating systems instead of allowing less effective electric or fossil fuel heating systems that are typically installed in commercial buildings. The effective date of this particular Seattle Energy Code update is extended to January 1, 2018, in order to allow projects already in the pipeline to be completed without major changes.

The Living Building Challenge legislation will be discussed in City Council’s Planning, Land Use & Zoning Committee on September 9, with a public hearing to be held on September 20. The Seattle Energy Code legislation will be discussed with City Council Planning, Land Use & Zoning Committee on September 20.