Beginning in June 2026, many buildings in the state of Washington will be scrutinized by the Washington Clean Buildings Performance Standard, which effectively focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings. It pushes for efficient energy use in commercial buildings 50,000 square feet and larger throughout the state.
Washington is not alone. The pressure to implement building compliance standards intensifies as the nation works to cut emissions by up to 52 percent come 2030. By this time in 2024, 20 percent of U.S. buildings’ square footage is projected to be impacted by one or more energy targets. While a few states lead the charge, these requirements will impact virtually every building nationwide over the coming years.
Whether this specific set of requirements will directly impact the buildings you serve or not, this is an opportune time to better understand retrofitting options for buildings and can serve as general guidance for the direction the industry is heading in. By leveraging cost-effective and compliant practices now, you can build an effective approach for ongoing building improvements that will keep you compliant and save you money over time.
Craft workers across the industry play a vital role in advancing our buildings to comply with state and federal performance mandates. Be it updating and retrofitting HVAC equipment, updating electrical equipment or ensuring we have industry-standard (or leading) plumbing installations, plenty of meaningful work is being handled by these team members on-site.
It is important that each profession has a healthy understanding of what is required for the buildings we all serve. Let’s look at several recommendations to help guide tradespeople and their clients in every effort to design buildings, projects and solutions that are built to last.
As is often the case, right now is the least expensive time and, thus, the greatest opportunity for your building and operation. When considering inflation, price increases and penalties for non-compliance, the expense of ignoring market updates and requirements can grow over time.
That is why working now to understand the key needs of buildings and spaces, relative to ongoing legislative changes and requirements, can save time and money by implementing solutions today that will improve operation for years to come.
Focusing retrofitting efforts and dollars on proactive changes today that will impact long-term goals and mandate adherence will serve your building and your business and help you remain cost-effective in the future.
Focus on Efficiency
Whether you focus exclusively on becoming compliant with an evolving landscape of requirements or implementing building improvements for the life of your building, there is considerable value in placing a key focus on efficiency.
Generally, building retrofits can focus on the structural integrity itself, especially when focusing on seismic retrofitting or any other necessary physical improvements. However, ensuring a comprehensive approach to efficiency across the building can help safeguard your space and costs over the long term.
By developing a holistic compliance plan, you can minimize financial costs and build long-term efficiencies.
Electrify Today with Tomorrow in Mind
In general, buildings see an average of 50 percent of their energy costs wasted due to inefficiencies in the operation of various functions and components. By leveraging updated technology, such as the electrification of various operations, building owners and managers can ensure that they will be able to meet the future need for energy efficiency and use.
Building performance legislation and mandates push building owners to focus more intentionally on energy conservation. As the broad focus on sustainability and decarbonization increases, it is becoming increasingly critical (and cost-beneficial) for owners to employ current and ongoing best practices to remain compliant with an ever-evolving landscape of regulations and penalties.
Because buildings account for up to 75 percent of city-wide greenhouse gas emissions in cities across the country, clear and effective building performance mandates are a key tool to lower urban emissions at scale.
For portfolio managers with multiple buildings, leveraging program similarities may make navigating the complexities of implementation easier. Many compliance programs are likely to include similar measurements, such as the Energy Use Index and GHG reporting and targeting, as well as a fine structure for noncompliance.
Choosing the right partner — with a robust history supporting clients in achieving compliance with ever-expanding and complicated legislation — can ensure success in developing an energy reduction strategy and timely implementation of prescribed measures.
Justin Lee is a senior program manager at McKinstry, overseeing the delivery of CBPS-related work across the state of Washinton. He focuses on building integrated solutions to help clients solve interconnected problems around sustainability compliance, energy efficiency and effective facility operations. Lee has been with McKinstry for a year and a half but has worked in the sustainable building sector for more than 15 years.