The city of Seattle is providing the public a closer look at the energy use of city-owned buildings in a new report, “Seattle Municipal Buildings 2011-2012 Energy Use Performance Report.” The report describes city efforts to evaluate the energy efficiency of 6.2 million square feet of city-owned and -operated building space, a process that the city is also requiring owners of mid-sized and large privately owned buildings to do every year. The report also details actions the city is taking to improve the energy efficiency of its facilities.
“We hope that sharing the city’s results from evaluating our buildings’ energy use encourages other owners to do the same,” says Jill Simmons, director of the Office of Sustainability & Environment. “Taking a close look at the energy performance of our facilities helps identify cost-effective opportunities to save energy and free-up taxpayer resources for other important city services.”
To lead by example, city departments were directed to go beyond the minimum requirements of the energy benchmarking program and publicly disclose the city’s benchmarking results. Private owners in Seattle are required to disclose their building’s energy use with tenants, buyers, lenders and other qualified parties upon request. The city building report includes office buildings, libraries, fire and police stations, community buildings and more.
The assessment found that city-owned downtown buildings (City Hall, Justice Center, Seattle Municipal Tower, Central Library) are more energy efficient than the national average. The Seattle Municipal Tower has an EPA ENERGY STAR score of 93 out of 100 (50 is average), meaning it is more energy efficient than 92 percent of similar buildings nationwide. More than 3,000 people work at this 62-story high rise that uses about 40 percent less energy than a typical building of its size. Regularly monitoring and quick action to address in energy use helps the city keep the building performing at the top of its class. For example, continuous energy tracking led managers to reduce weekend heating and lighting when fewer people use the building.
On the whole, the city’s extensive public library system uses about 42 percent less energy than other U.S. libraries. Seattle’s libraries use about 61 kBtus (thousand British thermal units) of energy for each square foot of space, whereas U.S. libraries on average use about 104 kBtu per square foot.
City building energy use was compared to that of similar buildings throughout the nation—information provided by the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program and the Energy Information Agency’s Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). Private building owners can also use ENERGY STAR and CBECS data to see how their buildings stack up to others nationally.
“We applaud the city for taking a detailed assessment of the energy performance of its buildings and sharing this information with the public. Seattle 2030 District members share building energy performance within our organization allowing participants to compare results, share best practices and make our buildings perform at higher levels of efficiency. The city’s disclosure of its data is a welcome step in providing useful information from which the market can learn,” says Brian Geller, executive director of the Seattle 2030 District. The Seattle 2030 District is a collaboration of leading building owners and managers, including the city of Seattle, in downtown Seattle committed to significantly reducing environmental impacts within the built environment.
While this is the first time city building energy use has been made public, the city has a long history of monitoring and improving the energy efficiency of its facilities, including recent energy-efficiency upgrades at 17 city facilities. One upgrade—a chiller at Seattle Center’s central plant that cools more than 1 million square feet of space—is projected to cut electricity use by 13 percent. This and other energy conservation efforts have saved the city and taxpayers $1.25 million since 2008.
The city is currently developing a comprehensive Resource Conservation Management Plan to build on its energy efficiency track record. The plan will outline strategies to improve the energy efficiency of the city’s building portfolio by 20 percent by 2020 (from a 2008 baseline).
As of April 1, owners of all commercial and multifamily residential buildings 20,000 square feet or larger are required to annually benchmark and report energy use to the city. Already, more than 90 percent of large building owners (50,000 square feet and above) have reported their building’s energy use.