In an ordinance adopted January 25, 2009 (Council Bill No. 116731), the Seattle City Council created new energy efficiency reporting requirements for owners of nonresidential and multi-family buildings located in the City of Seattle. The ordinance adopted by an 8-0 vote, will require building owners to provide “energy benchmarking reports” to the Director of the Department of Planning & Development using the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager or a similar system. Building owners who provide inaccurate reports or who fail to report may be cited and fined or may receive a notice of violation. Building owners must provide copies of the energy benchmarking reports to current and prospective tenants, prospective buyers and lenders who ask for them. This adds new elements of due diligence and disclosure to non-residential lease and sale transactions in the city.

For nonresidential buildings that exceed 50,000 square feet and with initial occupancy prior to January 1, 2010, the first energy benchmarking report must be filed by April 1, 2011. Owners of nonresidential buildings over 10,000 square feet with initial occupancy before January 1, 2011 must file by April 1, 2010. All other owners of nonresidential buildings must file initial reports within one year after initial occupancy.

Owners of multifamily buildings (defined as including five or more dwelling units) with initial occupancy prior to January 1, 2011 must file an initial report by April 1, 2012. All other owners of multifamily buildings must file within one year of initial occupancy. For condominiums, the owners’ association must file the report.

Energy benchmarking reports must be updated prior to April 1 of each year following the first report. Building owners are required to disclose the reports within 7 days of a request by current tenants, prospective tenants and buyers and prospective lenders. An owner who provides an inaccurate report may be subject to a citation and fine of $150. Prolonged noncompliance will result in a notice of violation and daily fines of up to $500. Failure to disclose a report as required will result in a citation and fine of $150 for the first offense, and $500 for subsequent offenses.

Owners of both nonresidential and multifamily buildings may request information regarding energy use that they are otherwise unable to obtain from their tenants. Tenants who refuse to provide the requested information may be cited and fined.

Many of the requirements of Seattle’s Council Bill No. 116731 are part of last year’s Efficiency First! Act (SB 5854, Chapter 423 Laws of 2009) which sets standards for the Washington State Energy Code. See RCW 19.27A.170. The State Energy Code preempts the energy codes of local governments in many respects, and thus is already an important part of local building codes. See RCW 19.27A.015—025; see, e.g., Pierce Cnty Code 17C.30.010; Snohomish Cnty Code 30.52D.010; Bellevue Municipal Code 23.10.010(C); Everett Municipal Code 16.10.010(B); Olympia Municipal Code 16.04.020(6) (all adopting provisions of the State Energy Code). However, builders and owners should be aware that other local jurisdictions in Washington are likely to follow Seattle’s lead in taking steps to implement the specific requirements of the Efficiency First! Act.