Clean Buildings Performance Standard

How it started

Washington State Capitol Building

State adopts landmark energy efficiency performance standard

Buildings are the most rapidly growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state. The buildings sector is the state’s second-biggest carbon polluter behind transportation, accounting for 27% of statewide emissions. Investment in building energy efficiency is the most cost-efficient way to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Clean buildings are essential to meeting our state’s climate goals.

The life span of a building can be 50-100 years, meaning our existing buildings will be around for decades to come. To meaningfully reduce building emissions, we need stronger energy use standards. The 2019 Clean Buildings Act created energy performance standards for commercial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet. Mandatory compliance begins in 2026.

Washington state’s Clean Buildings Performance Standard is designed to secure this energy efficiency opportunity. The standard is one of several pillars of Gov. Jay Inslee’s 2019 climate package and is the first of its kind in the nation.

Clean Buildings Rulemaking

Clean Buildings rulemaking timeline

Clean Buildings Tier 1 rulemaking timeline

In 2019, the Legislature directed Commerce to adopt the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 100-2018 as a base, and establish energy use intensity targets (EUIt) specific to Washington state for different building occupancy types.

Commerce conducted 15 workshops and comment periods from 2019 through 2020 to establish the new standard and set state-specific targets that are 15% less than 2009-2018 averages. The targets are based on data showing the average energy use for commercial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet as well as the downward trend in energy use resulting from new technology and maintenance or operation practices. Examples include the replacement cycle of lighting to LEDs and trends in building tune-ups and operations.

The new rules filed Oct. 30, 2020, known as WAC 194-50, implement Washington’s landmark Clean Buildings Performance Standard enacted in 2019 (Chapter 285, Laws 2019). The law required Commerce to develop and implement an energy performance standard for Tier 1 buildings (formerly known as covered commercial) which are buildings greater than 50,000 square feet, and provide incentives to encourage energy efficiency improvements. Industrial and agricultural buildings are exempt from the standard. Access the Clean Buildings Performance Standard by completing this form.

Clean Buildings Expansion timeline

Clean Buildings Tier 2 timeline

On March 25, 2022, Governor Inslee signed the Clean Buildings expansion bill into law. The expansion applies to buildings 20,000 square feet or larger, adding a new second tier that includes multifamily buildings.

The first phase of this law is not a performance standard. It will require reporting on benchmarking, energy management plans and operations and maintenance programs for Tier 2 buildings. Compliance and reporting for this new tier is expected July 1, 2027.

The expansion bill also includes an incentive program with an additional $150 million available for Tier 2 buildings at a rate of $.30 cents per square foot.

Opportunities for stakeholder input on rules to come
The new law requires Commerce to complete rulemaking by Dec. 1, 2023. We look forward to hearing from you during upcoming stakeholder engagement sessions. Meetings will be announced through our Clean Buildings Bulletins and webpage.

Legislation and Reference Standards

State energy performance standards:

  • 19.27A.200 (link) – Definitions 
  • 19.27A.210 (link)  – State energy performance standard 
  • 19.27A.220 (link) – Early adoption incentive program 
  • 19.27A.230 (link) – Limit on early adoption incentive payments 
  • 19.27A.240 (link) – Early adoption incentive payment administration 

Quick Links

Compliance Deadlines

Tier 1 buildings reporting schedule:

June 1, 2026
More than 220,000 sq. ft.
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June 1, 2027
More than 90,000 sq. ft. but less than 220,001 sq. ft
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June 1, 2028
More than 50,000 sq. ft. but less than 90,001 sq. ft

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