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Mayor Harrell Signs Building Emissions Performance Standard (BEPS) Legislation into Law 

Bold policy is one of the most impactful actions Seattle can take to reduce emissions, and follows significant stakeholder engagement and climate analysis 

Seattle – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell signed the Seattle Building Emissions Performance Standard (BEPS) 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.” 

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.  

“BEPS 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.  

This 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. 

For more information about the BEPS policy and next steps, see the Office of Sustainability’s website at: 

Mayor Harrell speaks at the signing with downtown buildings behind him.
Mayor Harrell poses with stakeholders after the signing

What People Are Saying:  

Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6 – Northwest Seattle) 

“Growing up in Seattle, I watched as our summers became hotter, our skies smokier, and our weather less predictable. Inaction is not an option, and we must urgently combat one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses, the buildings we work and live in. We already passed the strongest energy code in the nation to make new buildings more efficient and now, with this policy, we will ensure the buildings already built help address the climate crisis too.” 

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8 – Citywide) 

“Passing this legislation is one of the most important steps the City can take right now to tackle our local climate emissions. Paired with the record investments we are making with Jumpstart Green New Deal funding to shore up the resilience of our local communities and workforce, this policy will strengthen the City’s climate response and show strong leadership on local climate action. While there’s still so much left to do to advance climate justice, today we should all celebrate passage of this landmark policy. Thank you to the Office of Sustainability and Environment, MLK Labor and Seattle’s building trades, affordable housing advocates and providers, and the climate advocates whose years of advocacy and collaboration made this possible.”  

Deepa Sivarajan, Washington Local Policy Manager, Climate Solutions 

“Buildings are still the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Washington, and burning fossil fuels inside our homes and buildings pollutes our indoor air and harms public health. Seattle’s new Building Emissions Performance Standard will ensure Seattle’s largest existing buildings transition to being fully powered by clean energy over the next few decades. This policy will help put Seattle on track to meeting its climate targets while also protecting the health and safety of our communities, reducing air pollution, and increasing the use of heat pumps that provide both heating and air conditioning. We’re very pleased to have worked with the City on making the policy more equitable, effective, and enforceable, and look forward to continuing this work in the coming years.”  

Dylan Plummer, Senior Campaign Representative, Sierra Club 

“To protect public health and mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis, Seattle must transition off of fossil fuels like polluting fracked gas. Developing strong and enforceable Building Emissions Performance Standards and requiring large buildings to make the switch from dirty fuels is a critical step to protect our climate and reduce indoor and outdoor air pollution and will offer a model for other cities in the region to follow.”  

Katie Garrow, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, MLK Labor (AFL-CIO) 
“Climate change has reached Seattle in the form of wildfire smoke and heatwaves and this policy is part of the solution. Mayor Harrell’s Building Performance Standards policy is forecasted to create thousands of jobs over its lifespan which will benefit Seattle-area workers and expand career pathways for women and workers of color.”  

Debolina Banerjee, Green New Deal Oversight Board Executive Committee Member 
“The Building Emissions Performance Standard is a great opportunity to advance Seattle’s Green New Deal by addressing one of the city’s largest sources of emissions while creating green union jobs and expanding strategies to support climate resilience for people across Seattle. Equitable implementation and ensuring no communities are left behind in Seattle’s clean energy transition is essential. We look forward to working with the Mayor, City Council, and community partners in the coming years to ensure BEPS plays a key role in Seattle’s Just Transition.”  

Patience Malaba, Executive Director, Housing Development Consortium 
“Affordable housing is critical, as is solving our ever-growing climate crisis. Today, through Mayor Harrell’s leadership, we will start making meaningful reductions in the climate pollution that, sadly, impacts our most vulnerable communities in Seattle first and worst. We will, at the same time, ensure that we are creating more resilient housing for Seattle’s residents far into the future. This is one of those rare moments when we can celebrate a giant policy leap forward that addresses the intersecting crises of affordable housing, racial equity, and climate change. I am proud of the work we did together to ensure that the Building Emissions Performance Standard works for affordable housing providers and the broader ecosystem.”  

Rachel Koller, Managing Director, Shift Zero 
“Buildings must be part of the climate solution and Seattle’s Building Emissions Performance Standards is a key strategy, guiding the city’s largest buildings on a path to clean, efficient electric systems as they upgrade over the coming years. The resulting clean energy retrofits will make a difference in day-to-day lives, by expanding access to heat pumps for cooling in the face of heat events and wildfire smoke that are now familiar in our region.”  

Nancy Hirsh, Executive Director, NW Energy Coalition 
“This Building Performance Standard is vital to helping Seattle achieve its climate, clean energy, and economic goals. Building retrofits require planning and investment, and this proposal provides both. Large commercial and multifamily building owners will be able to access funding and incentives for clean energy retrofits from the Federal Inflation Reduction Act, state and local programs to decarbonize their buildings in the coming years, creating healthier living and working spaces.”  

Laura Jay, C40 Cities Regional Director for North America 
“Seattle’s bold action to adopt a Building Energy Performance Standard sets a powerful example of what climate leadership looks like. With the proposed building standards, Seattle will join C40 Cities like New York, Boston, and Washington DC in charting a path forward for cities to reduce emissions from buildings, create good green jobs, and keep residents safe and healthy. C40 commends Seattle and Mayor Harrell and looks forward to the greener future enabled by this milestone achievement.”  

Jonny Kocher, Manager, Carbon-Free Buildings Program, RMI  
“The Seattle Building Emissions Performance Standard positions the city among national leaders in reducing emissions from existing buildings—a crucial step to confronting the climate crisis and delivering health and economic benefits for families and businesses. RMI applauds Mayor Harrell for proposing this new standard and we look forward to supporting this strong policy that prioritizes housing equity, climate justice, and energy savings for its most vulnerable residents.” 

Simone Mangili, Executive Director, Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance 
“Congratulations Mayor Harrell for this groundbreaking achievement. Seattle’s collaborative approach, working closely with the building industry and environmental community to deliver the kind of impactful policy that the climate crisis requires, is a model for other cities.”  

Jessica Miller, Senior Director of Policy Strategy & Engagement, IMT 
“Seattle’s law marks a significant step towards aligning with major US cities like Boston, St. Louis, New York, and Washington DC. This strategic move not only integrates Seattle into a national effort but also enhances its potential to obtain crucial federal funding for equitable implementation. The impact of building performance standards extends beyond buildings; it offers substantial benefits for residents and the climate.”  

Neil Bavins, Principal, Windward Consulting NW 
“This is important and challenging legislation. As a member of the Technical Advisory Group, it feels like our concerns were heard and addressed. The City did a great job of listening to stakeholders and crafting a standard that is simple to understand and will be effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings.”   

Michelle Piñon, SAFE Cities Senior Organizer, 
“Fossil fuel use in buildings is one of the biggest contributors to the pollution that causes climate change. Seattle has helped to lead the way in Washington on reducing pollution in new construction and we’re encouraged to see them moving forward with a proposal to reduce pollution from existing buildings. This is a step in the right direction, and we hope this policy can help accelerate related efforts. A win in Seattle sets a template for cities across the country to do the same.”