About Benchmarking

Seattle is one of more than 30 U.S. cities with benchmarking and transparency laws. Benchmarking allows owners and occupants to understand their building's relative energy performance which can highlight inefficiencies and opportunities to cut energy waste, reduce emissions, and lead to savings. Sharing this data can drive the market to recognize and reward energy efficiency and create a continuous cycle of improvement and demand for high-performing buildings. See the Institute for Market Transformation website for a summary of current energy disclosure requirements across the nation. 

Benchmarking is the practice of comparing the measured performance of a device, process, facility, or organization to itself, its peers, or established norms, with the goal of informing and motivating performance improvement. When applied to building energy use, benchmarking serves as a mechanism to measure energy performance of a single building over time, relative to other similar buildings, or to modeled simulations of a reference building built to a specific standard (such as an energy code).

Buildings account for more than one third of Seattle's core greenhouse gas emissions. The benchmarking policy supports Seattle's goals to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings. In 2013, the City of Seattle adopted a Climate Action Plan to achieve zero net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. Annual benchmarking, reporting, and disclosing of building performance are foundational elements of creating more market value for energy efficiency. 

You can't manage what you don't measure. The Institute for Market Transformation's "The Benefits of Benchmarking Building Performance" report outlines the extensive benefits of benchmarking for building owners, cities, and the real estate market. Some key takeaways include:

  • Shows property owners and managers how their buildings are using - and wasting - energy. Benchmarking is a first step towards lowering energy costs and staying competitive.
  • Helps businesses and consumers make more informed decisions that take actual energy costs into account when buying or renting property.
  • Lowers energy costs to owners and tenants, reducing greenhouse gas impacts, and creating jobs in the energy services and construction trades.
  • Establishes energy performance ranges for Seattle building types based on their reported energy use to help owners see how their building's energy use compares to their peers.
  • Allows the City of Seattle to track its energy reduction goals and target incentive dollars by market sector.  

Multifamily and non-residential buildings greater than 20,000 square feet (excluding parking) must be accurately benchmarked and reported to the City of Seattle each year. For more detail on whether or not your building needs to comply, refer to the "BUILDINGS SUBJECT TO REQUIREMENTS" section of the Director's Rule. The City of Seattle determines whether or not a building must comply from King County Assessor records.

For more information, contact energybenchmarking@seattle.gov for help.

The Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) Director's Rule 2017-01 was published on March 21, 2017 and includes clarification of ordinance requirements including: buildings subject to the requirement; requirements related to annual reporting of benchmarking data; utilities contacts and requirements to provide energy consumption data; requirements related to exemptions and enforcement; and energy performance data to be collected and annually published. 

Director's Rule OSE-2017-01

Energy Performance Transparency

On February 29, 2016, the Seattle City Council approved an amendment (Ordinance 125000) to the existing benchmarking regulation (SMC 22.920) to make building energy performance data publicly available. This change follows the norm already established by law in dozens of other U.S. cities. The goal of making such data publicly available or "transparent" is to create long-term market demand for energy efficient buildings, protect tenant interests, and reward high-performers. Transparency creates an informed market with the ability to compare energy use (and future operating costs) between similar properties, and use this information to guide purchasing, leasing and financing decisions. The City's goal is to create a framework for the data that is useful to the market, shows the data by building sector, and allows building owners to provide relevant context and note progress towards better energy efficiency.

Contextual Comments on Building Performance

Building owners may submit comments annually with benchmarking data to share details that frame their building's performance history  to highlight building uses that may contribute to high energy use, or work that has been completed recently or is planned to make the building more efficient.

This opportunity to provide building performance related comments is in response to stakeholder requests. Owners may share website links or provide contact information to allow interested parties to learn more about their asset. To submit comments, email energybenchmarking@seattle.gov and include the following:

  • Building name & Seattle OSE Building ID
  • Your name, organization, and affiliation to the building (e.g. owner, property manager, etc.) 

Please provide performance related comments in 2-3 sentences (limit 75 words). OSE may recommend edits to conform to space limitations.

Energy Disclosure Reports

Upon request, building owners are required to provide an energy disclosure report within 7 business days to any current or prospective tenant, buyer, or lender involved with a real estate transaction, a lease, or an application for financing or refinancing of the building. Owners must respond to an energy disclosure request by providing a Statement of Energy Performance (SEP) which is quickly created from Portfolio Manager (if a building is benchmarked). A SEP showing the building's energy performance via a Site EUI and ENERGY STAR score (if available) ending in December of the prior year is sufficient. The City of Seattle will not provide energy disclosure reports to anyone other than the building owner or the Portfolio Manager Account holder, but will instead refer people to the Energy Benchmarking Map and Seattle Open Data portal. Building owners are, however, not relieved of their legal obligation to provide a disclosure report.

Failure to respond to an energy disclosure report request is subject to enforcement. 


Help Desk - energybenchmarking@seattle.gov |  (206) 727-8484

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Sustainability and Environment

Jessyn Farrell, Director
Address: 700 5th Avenue, #1868, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94729, Seattle, WA, 98124-4729
Phone: (206) 256-5158

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