Possible Policy: Mandatory Home Energy Audits

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Though Seattle is known for its green buildings -- and strong policies support building even more of them -- we'd all be happy to see more, and faster, progress when it comes to building and retrofitting homes, offices and commercial spaces to be as energy efficient, healthy and resilient as possible.

Policies being considered at both the City and State level would promise to increase local standards for energy efficiency in a way that plays on the market. Basically, the bills would require owners to conduct energy audits of their buildings, or measure and report building performance information. This could generate pressure on the owner to upgrade, whether just by making him or her aware of the current wastes and potential savings, or by influencing potential buyers when the property is up for sale.

Neither policy would make disclosure mandatory for homeowners, though the proposal being considered by the City of Seattle could, in time, require homeowners to get audits so they have the information for themselves and prospective buyers. As Jayson Antonoff, who has been working with the City's Department of Planning and Development on these issues, described to me in an email:

1. The City is currently considering recommendations that came out of the Mayor's Green Building Task Force, which was a stakeholder process we ran last year to get input on achieving higher levels of energy performance in our new and existing buildings. The draft policy recommendations report is posted here. This includes recommendations for mandatory energy performance disclosure for commercial and multi-family buildings, and mandatory energy audits for single family homes (pp 13 to 16). The phase in period and associated financing options are still being evaluated. This would be implemented for the City of Seattle only.
2. There are also bills under consideration at the WA State level, including SB 5854, which would require state-wide disclosure of energy consumption data for all nonresidential and qualifying public agency buildings, using the EnergyStar Portfolio Manager.
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