Clean Buildings - Frequently Asked Questions

The Clean Buildings Performance Standard (Standard) applies to Tier 1 buildings (previously known as covered commercial buildings). Tier 1 buildings are non-residential, hotel, motel and dormitory buildings greater than 50,000 gross square feet, excluding the parking garage area. Multifamily residential buildings are exempt from Tier 1 mandatory requirements of the Standard but are eligible for the Early Adopter Incentive Program.

If you have additional questions, please contact us using the customer support form for additional help.

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Tier 2 Covered Buildings

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 July 1, 2027.

Tier 1 buildingsTier 2 buildings
Buildings greater than 50,000 square feetBuildings 20,000 to 50,000 square feet
Must comply with the Clean Buildings Performance StandardBenchmarking, EMP and O&M program required
Mandatory compliance begins in 2026 for buildings over 220,000 square feetMandatory reporting July 1, 2027
Rules are established and can be found in WAC 194-50Rules will be complete by Dec 2023
Does not include multifamily residential buildingsIncludes multifamily residential buildings greater than 20,000 square feet

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

The new law requires Commerce to complete rulemaking by Dec. 1, 2023. Rulemaking provides an opportunity for the public to comment. Meetings will be announced through our Clean Buildings Bulletins and webpage.

Notification Letter

Complete the Clean Buildings Customer Support Form. When filling out the form, include a list of the building(s) parcel IDs, the square footage and any additional documentation or information.

Or

Complete a Data Verification Request.

Initial access to the Clean Buildings Portal requires an access code found in the building owner notification letter, or the Clean Buildings staff may grant you shared access upon request.

To request a copy of the building owner notification letter or to request shared access, complete the request form. This will provide Commerce staff with the information needed to verify applicants are authorized to view and/or maintain building/parcel information on behalf of the organization.

We used a combination of methods to identify possible Tier 1 buildings after receiving feedback from stakeholders that county assessor data did not always contain the information we needed to accomplish this task.

We created county-specific Geographic Information System layers showing possible Tier 1 buildings and their estimated gross floor area using available Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) data.

Buildings can span multiple parcels, and our visual identification method does not allow us to see if there are internal connections between structures on adjoining parcels.

Residential condo owners do not need to comply. We have updated our records to reflect this. A data verification request is not necessary. No further action is required.

Compliance

Here are some steps to get you started:

The Support and Resources webpage provides additional resources that can assist with compliance. There you can find a directory of qualified persons and energy auditors.

Commerce can assign several people to access the same building(s). Please complete the following:

  • Have each person that requires access complete the Shared Access Request Form. This will provide Commerce staff with information needed to verify applicants are authorized to view and/or maintain building/parcel information on behalf of the organization.
  • Have each person that requires access set up a SAW Account.
  • Add the Clean Buildings Service using the first option; I have been given a code by an agency. Then enter the code CBPS21.
  • Shared access will be granted when steps 1-3 have been completed by the applicant and verified by Commerce staff.

If a building owned by a church or non-profit meets the definition of a Tier 1 building, it will need to comply.

Yes, the Clean Buildings Performance Standard is more stringent than Seattle’s Building Tune-Up program, although certain elements are similar.

The Standard requires:

  • the building(s) energy use intensity (EUI) meet the target EUI metrics shown in Annex Z, Table 7-2a, or;
  • investment in all cost-effective energy efficiency measures as determined by the Standard.

In addition, all Tier 1 buildings must implement an energy management plan as specified by the Standard. To find out more, watch the following informational video on the basics of the Standard; Clean Buildings 101.

The Clean Buildings Performance Standard is mandatory for all Tier 1 buildings located in the state of Washington. A Tier 1 building is a building where the sum of nonresidential, hotel, motel and dormitory floor areas exceeds 50,000 gross square feet, excluding the parking garage area.

  • Nursing homes and senior care/assisted living facilities are considered institutional occupancies according to Washington state building codes.

Institutional occupancies are considered Tier 1 buildings by the standard and shall comply with the Clean Buildings Performance Standard when the building floor area is greater than 50,000 square feet.

  • Senior Care Community refers to buildings that house and provide care and assistance for elderly residents.

Senior Care Community applies to nursing homes (skilled nursing facilities) and assisted living facilities and is not intended for retirement communities that offer only independent living. A senior living residential community may include a mixture of residential and institutional occupancies.

If more than 50,000 of any single building is categorized by the building codes as institutional occupancy, the building would need to comply with the Standard. The building’s occupancy permit should list the occupancy designation. You may also check with the building department if you cannot find the record on site.

If you are still uncertain about the designation of your facility, please contact us by filling out the customer support form.

No, a building is not required to be sub-metered to comply with the Standard. Please review the submetering documentation for additional information.

Tier 1 buildings subject to the Standard that are not independently metered, and thus cannot measure an energy use intensity (EUI), need to comply with the investment criteria.

State law requires utilities to report utility data to building owners with three or more tenants. If you have two or fewer tenants, you will need to have them sign a waiver provided by the utility to release the data to you, or the tenant can obtain the data from the utility provider.

In accordance with RCW 19.27A.170 (8), for any Tier 1 building with three or more tenants, an electric or gas utility must, upon request of the building owner, provide the building owner with aggregated monthly energy consumption data without requiring prior consent from tenants.

Early Adopter Incentive Program

Before applying for the Early Adopter Incentive Program, determine if you are eligible by visiting the Early Adopter Incentive Program webpage and review the program guidelines.

If you are eligible, the application can be found in the Clean Buildings Portal.

Exemptions

The complete list of exemptions and details can be found in RCW 19.27A.210(7)(c) and Section Z4.1 of the Standard. Learn more about the Clean Buildings Performance Standard.

Exemptions include:

  • No certificate of occupancy
  • Less than 50% of conditioned floor area unoccupied
  • Less than 50,000 square feet of conditioned space
  • More than 50% of floor area designated as Factory Group F or High Hazard Group H by the Washington state edition of the International Building Code (WA IBC)
  • Agricultural structures
  • Building is pending demolition
  • Financial hardship

Current law states that all applications for exemption to the Standard must be received by Commerce between 365 and 180 days before the scheduled compliance date. The exemption application will be available on the Clean Building Portal.

We understand this application time frame may cause concern since buildings with denied exemptions could have very little time to meet the compliance deadline. Commerce filed an emergency rule to open the window for building owners to apply for an exemption under the Clean Building Performance Standards.

Commerce filed an emergency rule to open the window for building owners to apply for an exemption under the Clean Building Performance Standards. Originally, rules filed in 2020 gave building owners one year to apply for and receive exemption decisions before their scheduled compliance date. The emergency rule will provide building owners three years to apply for an exemption before their scheduled compliance date. The earliest the applications will be available is July 1, 2023 for Tier 1 buildings over 220,000 sq. ft.

Commerce will host a public hearing on this rule change on Tuesday, April 25 and file a final rule in June. Details on this public hearing will be announced in the coming weeks via email, the Clean Buildings Bulletin, and will be posted on the Clean Buildings homepage.

You may submit written comments on this emergency rule at any time during this rulemaking. Please send written comments to buildings@commerce.wa.gov.

Commerce will host a public hearing on this rule change on Tuesday, April 25 and file a final rule in June. Details on this public hearing will be announced in the coming weeks via email, the Clean Buildings Bulletin, and will be posted on the Clean Buildings homepage.

If buildings meet one of the exemption criteria in RCW 19.27A.210(7)(c), building owners can now apply for an exemption three years prior to their scheduled compliance date.

  • Tier 1 buildings over 220,000 sq. ft. can apply for an exemption beginning on July 1, 2023.
  • Tier 1 buildings over 90,000 sq. ft. can apply for an exemption beginning on July 1, 2024.
  • Tier 1 buildings over 50,000 square feet can apply for exemption beginning on July 1, 2025.

Within six months before the compliance date, building owners who have received exemption approval must certify that the building still meets the eligibility qualifications for the exemption and that there have been no material changes to qualifying conditions. Commerce will provide a one-page declaration for exempted building owners to sign.

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Compliance Deadlines

Tier 1 buildings reporting schedule:

June 1, 2026
More than 220,000 sq. ft.
__________________________________
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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