Climate program manager recommends Olympia adopt Washington State commercial energy code

By Lorilyn C. Lirio

Olympia Climate Program Manager Dr. Pamela Braff recommended amending Washington State’s Commercial Energy Code to include large multifamily buildings to meet solar readiness requirements in the city.

Braff was briefing Land Use and Environment Committee members and council members Dani Madrone and Clark Gilman on Olympia’s solar readiness at the committee meeting on Thursday, June 16.

Braff said the state commercial energy code requires non-residential commercial facilities to meet solar-ready requirements for commercial buildings. “This non-residential piece is important because it exempts multifamily buildings from the solar readiness requirements.”

She said the state energy code includes that solar-ready requirements only apply to buildings greater than 10,000 square feet.

“So we have this kind of intersection of multifamily buildings that are smaller than 10,000 square feet that don’t meet the renewable energy requirement and also don’t meet this solar ready requirements,” Braff pointed out.

She added Olympia’s option is to amend the commercial energy code to the city’s purposes and extend solar readiness requirements to include large multifamily buildings.

However, Braff suggested waiting until the commercial energy code amendments come forward next month.

Braff said other jurisdictions, such as Seattle, Shoreline and Bellingham, who passed their commercial energy code updates last year, require designating a solar zone on all commercial buildings, including large multifamily structures.

For residential buildings, Braff informed the committee that the city has not yet adopted the Washington State Residential Code that allows for local jurisdictions to adopt solar-ready provisions for local residential units.

Washington Administrative Code 51-51-60106, Appendix T, requires solar-ready provisions for detached one- and two-family dwellings, multiple single-family homes or townhouses.

The climate program head said Olympia could not amend the state code, but the city can adopt provisions in Appendix T. The solar-ready provisions are applicable for new construction.

Braff told the committee members that Tumwater and Lacey have already adopted solar-ready residential building provisions.

Gilman showed surprise that the city council has not already adopted the solar-ready provisions when updating the code. “I remember it is coming up, but I couldn’t remember how we ended up not moving it forward. I would be glad to include this appendix T along with the commercial multifamily.”

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