Washington State has become the first U.S. state to incorporate building electrification mandates into statewide energy codes.
Beginning in 2023, builders are required to install electric heat pumps for heating and cooling in new commercial buildings and multi-family residences. According to an analysis by the Rocky Mountain Institute, restricting the use of natural gas in buildings in the state can eliminate 8.1 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2050. The updated energy code also includes improvements to building envelopes and efficiency that will further save energy for building users.
“The decision was a no-brainer as electrifying commercial buildings is a win for Washingtonians and the planet,” said Jonny Kocher, senior associate with RMI. “RMI found that heat pumps are 2-4 times as efficient as gas burning appliances and don’t impact customers’ utility bills. Unlike gas furnaces and water heaters, they do not emit dangerous combustion emissions, benefitting public health. And they reduce earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions by utilizing Washington’s already clean electricity grid, which will only get cleaner.”
The Washington State Building Code Council also approved a last-minute amendment that would only require 50 per cent of water heating to be via electric heat pumps; the remaining 50 per cent can be heated through other methods. There is also an exception for hospitals and research facilities.
“The long term business case for building all-electric is sound, and because of the business bottom line, we’re seeing an increasing demand from our clients for clean energy buildings,” said Todd Stine, partner at ZGF Architects. “This stronger energy code is absolutely time critical to continue to proactively move the design and construction industries toward achieving net zero carbon buildings. The market is already going there, but more clarity and support in policy and codes will be key for the building design and construction industries.”
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