Seattle Building Emissions Performance Standard

Navigating Seattle's Building Emissions Performance Standard (BEPS): A Guide for Building Owners

Key takeaways:

  • BEPS reporting requirements begin in 2027 for Seattle’s largest buildings
  • Building emissions standards go into effect in 2031
  • Fines will be enforced for failure to report or filing false reports, as well as for exceeding emissions standards
  • AI can help building owners bridge the gap to BEPS compliance in cost-effective ways


Seattle's Building Emissions Performance Standard (BEPS) represents a significant stride towards environmental sustainability. However, for building owners, navigating the complexities of compliance can be daunting. In this article, we'll explore the requirements introduced by BEPS and provide actionable strategies for building owners to achieve compliance.

What is BEPS?

According to data from the Office of Sustainability & Environment, buildings are responsible for 37% of Seattle’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—second only to transportation, which accounts for 61%. 

Signed into law by Mayor Bruce Harrell on December 13, 2023, the Building Emissions Performance Standard aims to reduce Seattle’s carbon emissions from large buildings by 27% (325,000 metric tons of CO₂e) by 2050. This new regulation applies to nonresidential and multifamily buildings of at least 20,000 square feet. It affects 4,100 of the city’s existing buildings and will shape new construction and development projects.

BEPS falls in the footsteps of other progressive cities’ decarbonization efforts like New York City’s Local Law 97 and Boston’s Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO). Limits get stricter over time until buildings reach net-zero carbon emissions, with penalties for non-compliance.

Requirements for Seattle building owners

While policy and program development are still underway, many of the initial regulations have been laid out. High and mid-rise offices, hotels, colleges, K-12 schools, warehouses, retail, multifamily, and hospitals are among the buildings impacted by BEPS. Facilities whose purpose is manufacturing or industrial processes are exempt. 

Requirement 1: Reporting & Verification

Starting in 2027, Seattle’s largest buildings (greater than 90,000 square feet) must verify energy consumption and emissions data from 2026 and submit their report to the government. This report is due by October 1st of each year moving forward.

These regulations apply to buildings greater than 50,000 square feet in 2028, 30,000 square feet in 2029, and 20,000 square feet in 2030.

Requirement 2: Meet Emissions Standards

This tapered approach will also apply to carbon emissions limitations, which are set by greenhouse gas intensity targets (GHGITs) and measured in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (kgCO₂e) per square foot per year. In addition to timeline differences based on square footage, BEPS will lay out 21 standards of GHGITs based on building use, as different facilities have different energy requirements in their day-to-day operations. For example, hospitals have a much higher energy intensity than the average office building. Emissions standards will reflect these differences in their drawdown limits over time.

GHG limits will go into effect for the largest buildings in 2031, with the addition of smaller buildings over the next four years (see table below). Methods for buildings to achieve compliance are to invest in building retrofits, upgrade equipment like the HVAC system, and/or invest in renewable energy sources.

BEPS fines for non-compliance

There are two categories of fines under Seattle’s Building Emissions Performance Standard. First, failure to report or filing a false report carries financial penalties of $15,000 or $7,500, depending on the size of the building.

Second, fines on the emissions side will be assessed by a combination of square footage and building type. Here is the breakdown of fines for exceeding annual building emissions targets:

  • $2.50 per square foot for low income housing
  • $7.50 per square foot for multifamily housing
  • $10.00 per square foot for nonresidential buildings

These fines may not look like much on a square footage basis, but they quickly add up on the aggregate. Take a 50,000 square foot cold storage facility, for example. If the facility can’t afford the equipment upgrades needed to achieve carbon compliance, it will face a half a million dollar ($500,000) annual fine. Such a financial hit can be ruinous for building and business owners.

How AI can help building owners bridge the gap to BEPS compliance

Between having to upgrade older systems, balancing financial constraints, and understanding technical complexities, there are a lot of challenges that Seattle building owners will have to face in the coming years. Tagup is here to help simplify your decarbonization efforts.

Commercial buildings rely on Beacon AI to optimize HVAC system performance, resulting in up to 30% lower carbon emissions and energy costs without the need to invest large sums into new equipment. Beacon is a machine learning software that works with your existing building automation system and starts producing savings in a matter of weeks. Furthermore, it acts as a single source of truth for building energy consumption and emissions data, helping you streamline your annual reporting commitments.

Building owners only pay a percentage of the savings that Beacon produces, making it 100% cash flow positive. Don’t wait until the last minute to start your BEPS compliance efforts. Get started with a personalized demo and savings estimate

Ben Keylor
Ben Keylor
Sr. Content Manager
February 13, 2024