Seattle orders building standard and pedestrian zone for climate

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In some good news on climate action, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced an exciting executive order to reduce Seattle’s greenhouse gas emissions of the two biggest sources of the city: transport and buildings. Mayor Durkan’s announcement came from Glasgow on the first day of the COP-26 international climate meeting.

Transportation is responsible for nearly two-thirds (over 60%) of Seattle’s climate emissions. Buildings represent another third. Buildings are also the city’s fastest growing source of emissions as they increase and heating and cooling requirements increase with more extreme weather conditions.

Set a new standard (for building performance)

In a decisive step to reduce emissions, Mayor Durkan calls on city staff to initiate a community outreach process with the goal of adopting a “building performance standard” for large buildings (20,000 square feet and more ) in 2022.

With the “building tune-ups” required by the city and Washington State standards, this could reduce emissions from this sector by 27% according to projections. Once adopted, Seattle would join four other US cities in using this powerful tool to reduce emissions, including most recently Boston.

A building performance standard is a requirement that building owners meet long-term and interim goals of reducing energy use and reducing or phasing out fossil fuel use. Setting future goals both gives building owners certainty and allows them to achieve goals in different ways; interim targets are lowered to get there.

Building performance standards can be created to achieve several goals:

  • Weather: Demand greater energy efficiency and reduce or eliminate fossil fuels such as “natural” gas used for heating, cooling and water heating, so that electricity can be used from cleaner sources . The result is that less energy is used in buildings, and what is used is cleaner.
  • Health: Improve indoor air quality for better health and reduced risk of childhood asthma; this is especially important in communities with higher health burdens, such as low-income black and indigenous residents, and other people of color.
  • Quality jobs: Renovation of buildings to improve their efficiency and reduce their pollution; it takes work, and those jobs are local. Policies can help ensure that more of these jobs are well paid and that training and access are improved, especially to support people historically excluded from these jobs, especially people of color and women. .
  • Housing affordability: The Mayor’s Order in Council also directs the City to offer options to reduce the initial and operating costs of affordable housing; for city-owned and other affordable housing, greater energy efficiency should help reduce costs over time for residents.
  • Equity: Increase equity by improving health and access to jobs and affordable housing, as above. Rather than further overburdening underserved communities, protect tenants and provide funding to homeowners who need help upgrading their buildings.

Community stakeholders should be able to help shape these goals and outcomes through a thoughtful and inclusive process.

The mayor’s decree also calls for an end to the use of fossil fuels in city-owned buildings by 2035.

Creation of an “urban pedestrian zone” – or zero emission zone

On transportation, the mayor’s executive order calls for expanding Seattle’s Stay Healthy Streets – its largely car-free streets program launched by Covid – to establish its first “urban pedestrian zone.” Potential sites should be identified in 2021, for implementation in summer 2022.

The “urban pedestrian zone” is also called zero emission zone in order, and it is an exciting step. Not only must it make walking safer, depending on how it is implemented, but it must also help residents breathe easier. Cities in the United States are just starting to embrace this concept, which London and other European cities have pioneered.

Zero emission zones can be implemented in different ways and, like building performance standards, can be defined to achieve different goals – often to reduce emissions and improve air quality, as well as to support more mobility options, such as safe walking and cycling and quality public transportation. They can support fairness by modifying the transportation system so that richer solo drivers pay a price that reflects the true cost of their choices, and by making transportation options clean, affordable, reliable, safe and easily accessible for drivers. residents of underserved communities.

Notable examples of these areas include:

We hope to see Seattle follow in these footsteps.

The decree also takes two immediate steps to support cleaner and more affordable transport for all:

Seattle is part of Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge, and pursues a building performance standard and other actions with its support. Together, actions like these from the 25 Climate Challenge cities are reduce around 74 million tonnes of carbon by 2030. We look forward to Seattle adding to this by realizing this ambition of a more secure future for all.


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