Buildings & Energy

The Buildings & Energy sector involves the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity and natural gas for heating, cooling, lighting, and other uses. Greenhouse gases are released during the combustion of fossil fuels—such as coal, oil, and natural gas—to heat/power buildings and produce electricity. Buildings and energy are the single largest contributor to GHG emissions in the Thurston region currently, but recent state legislation will support a transition to renewable electricity.

Key Sector Targets

Strategies and Actions

Strategy: Reduce energy use in existing residential buildings.

Actions in this strategy will support a transition toward higher efficiency homes by providing more information to consumers about home energy use and incentives for efficiency upgrades.

Actions Assessed in the Plan:

  • Residential energy performance ratings. Require energy performance ratings and disclosures for homes at time of sale, lease, or rent so that owners, tenants, and prospective buyers are informed before making purchasing or rental decisions.

  • Residential energy audits. Develop and adopt policies that require residential properties to undertake an energy audit at the time of sale or during a substantial remodel. Work with financial institutions to develop mortgage products that incorporate audited energy efficiency recommendations.

  • Rental housing energy efficiency incentives. Provide property tax breaks for landlords who install energy conservation measures in rental housing.

  • Property tax credit. Create a property tax credit for property owners who participate in energy efficiency.

  • Rental housing energy efficiency baseline. Pass an ordinance to require rental units to meet baseline levels of energy efficiency and make more stringent over time.

Strategy: Reduce energy use in existing commercial and industrial buildings.

Energy used to power businesses contributes to over 25% of our local carbon footprint. Reducing energy use in existing commercial and industrial buildings will require improvements in building energy efficiency and management to reduce overall consumption.

Actions Assessed in the Plan:

  • Commercial energy benchmarking & disclosure. Require energy performance ratings for commercial structures be disclosed so that owners, tenants, and prospective buyers are informed before making purchasing or rental decisions.

  • LED lighting. Install LED lighting in public-sector buildings and infrastructure (e.g., street lights, traffic signals).

  • Cool roofs. Create an incentive program for the installation of reflective roofs on commercial buildings to reduce building energy consumption and the urban heat island effect.

  • Performance standard. Set energy efficiency performance standards for commercial buildings with gross floor areas smaller than 50,000 square feet.

Strategy: Reduce energy use across building types.  

Improving demand response and engaging and empowering residents to make behavioral changes, can lead to emissions reductions and help Thurston reduce energy demand during peak times.

Actions Assessed in the Plan:

  • Energy education. Provide educational resources and technical assistance to industry professionals, building owners and managers on all aspects of energy efficient building design, retrofits, and operations for new and existing buildings.

  • Exemplary buildings. Create a Zero-Energy Building Challenge by partnering with public, private, non-profit and faith-based organizations. Facilitate rapid deployment and public awareness of high-profile demonstration buildings that use innovative energy efficiency and/or technology.

  • Green building tracking. Develop data methodology to monitor use and impacts of green building incentives, to inform future incentives and develop recommendations for policy or programs.

Strategy: Reduce energy use in new construction or redevelopment.

Developers can incorporate greener practices more easily in new construction than existing structures. The actions below include incentives and tools to help encourage the adoption of green building practices while balancing the need to keep housing affordable. 

Actions Assessed in the Plan:

  • Green public buildings. Require that new local government facilities (e.g., the new Olympia City Hall and LOTT building) demonstrate green building technologies and practices.

  • Permitting incentives. Offer streamlined permitting, lower fees, or other incentives for projects that meet green building certification standards.

  • Energy efficiency tax exemptions. Create a local property tax reduction or credit for new buildings that meet an energy efficiency performance standard.

  • Land use incentives. Provide land use incentives (floor area ratio, density bonus, height bonus, parking reductions) for zero-net carbon buildings or other applications that dramatically increase energy efficiency.

  • Permit counter technical assistance. Hire or contract with dedicated green building specialists to provide technical assistance through the permitting and development process.

  • Grid-connected appliances. Require smart appliances in new construction, especially water heaters that control timing of demand.

  • Multifamily submetering. Require submetering for new multifamily buildings so residents can track energy use.

Strategy: Increase the production of local renewable energy. 

Shifting our reliance for electricity away from fossil fuels toward renewable sources like wind and solar power is one of the most important strategies we have in reducing emissions. The Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) will help the Thurston region make significant reductions in electricity emissions, while smaller-scale renewable energy infrastructure can reduce energy costs and increase local resilience.

Actions Assessed in the Plan:

  • Public building solar. Install solar photovoltaics on all available and feasible municipal sites, including building rooftops, city hall, schools, police and fire stations, community centers, municipal water pump sites, and transit depots.

  • SolSmart. Pursue SolSmart designations and adopt solar friendly practices.

  • Solar-ready. Amend local development code to require solar-ready construction for all building types.

  • Group purchasing. Develop/support a city-sponsored group solar purchasing program.

Strategy: Convert to cleaner fuel sources.

While the energy sector converts to clean, renewable energy, Thurston can continue to transition away from natural gas and focus on cleaner energy sources to ensure long-term emission reductions.

Actions Assessed in the Plan:

  • Natural gas to electric conversions. Educate business owners and residents on the options for electric appliances and the benefit of pairing electrification with the installation of renewable energy. Create incentives to support fuel switching.

  • Electric appliances in new construction. Update municipal code to require electric appliances in new construction.

  • Natural gas ban. Ban all new natural gas connections in new buildings.

What You Can Do

The plan will lead directly to projects and resources spent in your community. Here’s how you can help determine which projects we undertake and where we should focus our resources: 

  • Take the Survey by clicking the “Share Your Feedback” tab above.

  • Read the Plan and get all the details in the full document.

  • Sign Up for updates via 

  • Email comments to the project manager at  

  • Call the project manager at the Thurston Regional Planning Council at 360-956-7575.  

  • Ask Questions and tell us what you think about the draft Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan.

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