News Brief

Washington Is First State to Electrify New Construction

A mandate to require all-electric heating and to restrict the use of natural gas in commercial and multifamily construction has been passed in Washington state.

Heat pump installation

The Washington State Building Code Council has voted to update the commercial energy code to restrict the use of natural gas in commercial and multifamily construction.

Photo: Phyxter Home Services . License: CC BY 2.0.
The Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) voted in April 2022 to update the state’s commercial energy code. The mandate passed 11 to 3 in a vote to restrict the use of natural gas in new commercial buildings and multifamily housing by requiring installation of electric heat pumps. A similar mandate for smaller residential buildings will be considered within the next few months, and the council also advanced a proposal that would restrict fossil fuel use in new residential buildings, which would go into effect in 2023.

“A strong energy code is a critical tool to ensure buildings are a part of the climate solution, and Washington's new energy code can be a model for other states,” said Rachel Koller, coordinator for Shift Zero, a building decarbonization alliance that advocated for the code changes, in an April 22 statement.

This update in Washington’s commercial energy code will require builders to install electric heat pumps for space and water heating in most commercial buildings and multifamily homes with four or more floors. Electric heat pumps are up to four times more energy efficient than standard gas furnaces, and this will reduce carbon emissions by more than 8 million tons by 2050, according to Rocky Mountain Institute. The SBCC did approve a last-minute amendment that would only require 50% of water heating to be via electric heat pumps; the remaining 50% can be heated through other methods. There is also an exception for hospitals and research facilities.

The new code restrictions go into effect in 2023.

Other states and countries are also going electric, including Colorado, where legislators passed a bill on May 11 that will require updated building codes, ensuring that new buildings are ready for all electric heating and cooling systems, renewable energy installations, electric car charging stations, and that they are solar panel ready. The bill is now heading to the governor’s desk for signature into law. If enacted, local governments will begin to enforce this bill no later than January 1, 2025.

More on Electrification

Net-Zero Energy Isn’t The Real Goal: 8 Reasons Why

Changing Building Design for a Changing Electrical Grid

New York State Tackles Electrification, Embodied Carbon

Published June 6, 2022

Axlund, P. (2022, May 20). Washington Is First State to Electrify New Construction. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/newsbrief/washington-first-state-electrify-new-construction

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