Last September, Seattle ranked as the fifth most energy-efficient city in the U.S., according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy's annual City Energy Efficiency Scorecard. However, a few moves made at the end of 2013 may vault the city even higher next year, and these developments are something all green building advocates should be paying attention to in 2014.
it's no secret that over the past few years, a range of local governments across the country have enacted legislation that mandates certain levels of LEED certification for government projects and major renovations. Most often, it seems these mandates or ordinances require LEED Silver or Gold certification. In a similar vein, the U.S. General Services Administration currently requires all major renovations and new construction of federally owned facility to meet LEED Gold requirements. But as of December, King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, is taking it further.
Under a new ordinance unanimously approved by the Metropolitan King County Council in December, all government construction and major renovation projects must strive for LEED Platinum certification. For those that worry budgets may be obliterated in striving for this new goal, take solace in the fact that the ordinance mandates that they must be achieved within certain cost constraints.
Could this be a movement that spreads to more municipalities across the country? King County, after all, isn't the first entity to enact this LEED Platinum goal: Greensburg, Kansas, which is best known for its green rebuilding efforts in the wake of a disastrous 2007 tornado, became the first to do so, notes USGBC's director of technical policy Jeremy Sigmon in a blog on the King County mandate. (Click through to Sigmon's blog for more links to King Country's green building tools and programs, including an EcoCribz video series and an interactive website exploring what makes a sustainable city.)
Green building advocates should pay attention, especially since the King County ordinance isn't the only reason to look at the Emerald City. In December, Seattle also adopted a Resource Conservation Management Plan (RCMP) outlining how the city will reduce its energy use in city-owned buildings by 2020. The goal: A 20 percent reduction over a 2008 baseline, which is just one benchmark on the path to the ultimate goal of carbon neutrality across the city's more than 650 buildings by 2050.
Resolution 31491, adopted on December 16, outlines a three-part plan focused on annual measurement and tracking; operations and maintenance improvements; and capital investments in energy efficiency, and the city's 2014 budget includes funding to begin RCMP implementation. That means as of today, the plan is active.
Under the plan, which can be downloaded in full as a PDF here, city departments are responsible for managing and maintaining their own facilities. Energy use intensity (EUI) data will be tracked from each building and will be analyzed to determine whether efficiency improvments are resulting in annual savings. However, since EUI data doesn't account for variables such as changes in use, staffing, or hours of operation, operations and maintenance practices will assist in providing additional metrics on building use. First up: implementing low- and no-cost O&M improvements that were identified via utility bill analysis and building energy assessments in 2013.
So, not even two days into the new year and Seattle is staking a claim for the title greenest city in the U.S. San Francisco, New York, Portland, and Boston should consider themselves put on notice--as should most other U.S. metropolises. How will your city respond?