What Washington State’s C-PACER Program Means for Healthy Buildings

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As sustainable buildings become a bigger part of the climate emergency conversation, states across the U.S. are creating financial incentive programs that make it easier for building owners to pay for improvements in energy efficiency, renewable energy, building resiliency, and water conservation.  

C-PACE programs across the country, totaling over $1 billion since 2010, have enabled such improvements for commercial properties in over 20 states, with 14 additional states recently taking steps to implement C-PACE programs. 

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What is C-PACER, and How Does It Work?

In 2020, Washington State adopted an expanded form of C-PACE – C-PACER, or the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy and Resiliency Program. C-PACER allows eligible property owners to receive financial help for making their buildings energy efficient and more resilient against seismic events, stormwater incidents, and fires.  

Washington State also recently passed House Bill (HB) 2405, which allows individual counties within the state to adopt their own C-PACER programs. To date, Thurston, Whatcom, and Clark Counties have been the initial adopters of the C-PACER frameworks, with King County looking to make considerations for the sustainability program before the end of 2021.  

The C-PACER program pipeline involves the following: 

First, property owners must identify potential upgrades for energy or water efficiency in addition to fire or earthquake resiliency measures – which are then packaged into the loan that is ultimately distributed not to the property owner, but to the property itself – a consideration that was made in the interest of making the program more appealing to the private lenders that provide the program’s funding.  

Next, the property owner needs to identify a capital provider for the project – at which point the property owner submits their application to the C-PACER program administration team. If successful, the property owner receives the necessary funding for the project, allowing for lowered utility bills through reduced energy costs, and making the property more valuable with compliance with coming regulations – like the ones posed by HB 1257. 

HB 1257: The Clean Buildings Performance Standard

Washington’s C-PACER programs are used as an avenue towards compliance with HB 1257, adopted in May 2019 as a major move in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s commercial building sector. HB 1257, or the Clean Buildings Performance Standard, sets performance standards for large commercial buildings and natural gas distribution companies. 

Similar to those posed by New York City’s Local Law 97, the compliance deadlines posed by HB 1257 are progressive.  

By June of 2026, buildings 220,000 square feet or larger must be in compliance. In June of 2027, buildings 90,001 to 220,000 square feet will be included – with the final compliance deadline in June of 2028, which requires that buildings 50,000 to 90,000 square feet are in compliance with the bill’s standards.  

The progressive buildup of these compliance deadlines provides property owners with a chance to evaluate their properties based on square footage and work towards compliance before the corresponding deadline.  

What C-PACER & The Clean Buildings Performance Standard Mean for the Future of Commercial Buildings

Programs such as Washington’s C-PACER and greenhouse gas emission regulations such as those outlined in HB 1257 are critical in paving the way for the future of public health, healthy buildings, and sustainability.  

Just before the pandemic, office buildings at 94% occupancy used about $30 billion worth of electricity each year. While energy usage initially declined as occupancy rates dropped to historic lows, it was already back up to $29 billion in July 2021, even when buildings were only 34% occupied – mainly due to increasing ventilation to meet COVID standards.  

By improving the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings, the emissions generated from heating and cooling could be reduced – preventing thousands of premature deaths every year. 

What’s more is that energy efficient technology can also help in improving the health of building occupants – for example, disinfection from UV-C lamps installed in HVAC air handling units can eliminate contaminants such as viruses and bacteria at the source, while keeping the coils clean of biofilm, which can reduce system efficiency by 22-37%.  

Measuring Energy Efficiency and Emissions in Your Building

Limiting energy costs and cutting emissions through proper energy management is a core part of creating a healthier, more sustainable future. Building owners who do not comply with HB 1257 face penalties up to $5,000 annually in addition to a daily fine of up to $1 per year and square foot. 

The simplest way for commercial building owners to measure energy consumption and demonstrate compliance with emerging greenhouse gas emissions requirements is through measurement and verification processes.  

Emerging Internet of Things (IoT) technology, such as our IAQ Platform, can revolutionize the traditional measurement and verification process approach by integrating HVAC and indoor air quality performance monitoring, building data analytics, data collection, and reporting to support necessary recordkeeping.  

Accessibility towards making energy efficiency improvements will surely be a major challenge in bringing our buildings up to speed to face the impending climate crisis. To learn more about PACE funding, check out this informational video from PACE Nation.