All new commercial and residential construction will be required to have energy-efficient electric heat pumps for water and space heating starting July 1, 2023.
Once the new codes are in effect, implementation occurs on the local level, with cities and counties enforcing them, according to Linda Kent, public affairs director for the state Department of Enterprise Services.
The State Building Code Council (SBCC) adopted the 2021 Washington State Energy Code in April, which is intended to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and energy use. The council required heat pumps in new commercial construction and multifamily residential buildings four stories and taller, Kent said.
In November, the SBCC voted to require heat pumps in new residential construction as well. The code requires new houses to have a heat pump as the primary heating source to heat spaces and water.
There’s no prohibition on the use of gas heat pumps. So, as residential technology for these appliances emerges, they will be allowed, Kent said. There is also an allowance for supplementary heating of both spaces and water with gas appliances.
The code also requires energy-efficient building envelopes, such as increasing thermal performance of windows, and roofs.
Building codes apply to new construction and major remodels, but do not require retroactive updates to buildings that are not being remodeled.
The requirement for commercial buildings passed by a greater margin in the SBCC (11 to 3) than the residential mandate (9 to 5). The SBCC took public comment on both proposals.
Water-source, ground source/geothermal, and air-source pumps are all allowed, although the code differentiates between different types of heat pumps because they perform differently under different circumstances.
The SBCC updates codes every three years after the national code-adoption cycle. This update is based both on national and state energy policy, including two laws that call for action to reduce emissions between 2006 and 2031.
The SBCC is a state agency created by the Legislature to provide independent analysis and objective advice to the Legislature and governor building-code issues.