OLYMPIA, WA—The Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) voted today to adopt new statewide residential building codes that will drive the transition to safe and healthy homes that run on low-cost, 100% clean electricity instead of methane gas—a climate super-polluter that also harms health. The state’s action to require heat pumps for space and water heating in new home construction follows similar action earlier this year on commercial and large multifamily buildings, making Washington’s statewide building codes among the strongest in the nation for using heat pumps in all new construction. The new building codes also improve kitchen ventilation to protect health.
“The State Building Code Council made the right choice for Washingtonians: From an economic, equity, and sustainability perspective, it makes sense to build efficient, electric homes right from the start,” said Shift Zero Managing Director Rachel Koller. “We also know that transitioning existing homes to be more efficient and fossil fuel free is critical for our climate and our health. Our state legislature can lead on this effort by investing in robust statewide programs that will help more households access the cost savings, health, and safety benefits of efficiency, like electric heat pumps.”
Washington’s residential building codes will take effect in July 2023. Updates approved today by the SBCC include:
- Requiring heat pumps for space heating/cooling and water heating. Heat pumps provide ultra-efficient heating, as well as cooling—an increasingly important need in Washington’s hotter summers and when residents are forced indoors by wildfire smoke. They run on the state’s clean and comparatively low-cost electricity. All-electric homes save Washingtonians $1,000 per year over the lifetime of the HVAC equipment, according to the Department of Commerce.
- Improved ventilation requirements for any new homes built with gas ranges for cooking. These safeguards are needed because of toxic pollutants like nitrogen oxides emitted by appliances that burn methane gas. In kitchens, this air pollution affects children especially, who are 42% more likely to suffer symptoms of asthma when they grow up in homes with a gas stove instead of an electric stove. Recent research has found that gas appliances even leak pollutants when they are off, including benzene, a carcinogen.
More than 100 people testified in support of the code updates at the SBCC’s two public hearings and more than 4,600 residents and experts submitted comments in support of the new residential codes.
Washington’s residential code update also adds to the wave of recent actions around the country including approximately 90 jurisdictions in 11 states that have adopted building electrification policies since 2019. The Inflation Reduction Act is expected to provide the average family $10,600 in incentives to electrify.