Flames atop the Space Needle

January 23, 2024

Did you know?

During the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle had a 40-foot-tall natural-gas-powered “torch” burning on the mast at the top. 

The Space Needle, early 1962. Note the flames coming from the antenna; the Needle was equipped with natural gas, which was burned at the top periodically for dramatic effect. P-I File

The Space Needle was ahead of its time from the moment it opened, and it was ahead of its time at the moment the Fair closed: The gas torch was removed, setting an example for Seattle buildings six decades later. More recently, the Space Needle’s latest renovation earned LEED Gold certification

Last month the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a landmark climate policy to transition large multi-family and commercial buildings away from fossil fuels to clean electricity. Under the Building Emissions Performance Standard (BEPS) policy, buildings over 20,000 square feet will be required to start reducing their greenhouse gas emissions incrementally beginning in 2031, with all covered commercial buildings reaching net zero emissions by 2045 and all multifamily buildings by 2050.

According to Smart Cities Dive

The city already bans most fossil fuel uses in new buildings per a 2021 energy code revision.

The building emissions performance standards, which apply to buildings larger than 20,000 square feet, are expected to impact about 3% of Seattle’s buildings — approximately 4,135 buildings, according to a November memo by the city’s Office of Sustainability and Environment. These buildings may be relatively small in number, but they account for nearly a third of the city’s building emissions, the memo states. 

Almost 25% of nonresidential buildings and 45% of multifamily buildings won’t need to take any measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions since they are already all electric, the memo says. The policy also works in tandem with new state rules requiring large buildings to meet energy performance standards in the coming years, according to the Seattle City Council. While the state and city standards are related, they are not the same: The state’s rules focus on increasing buildings’ energy efficiency, while Seattle’s standards specifically focus on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Per Climate Solutions, a growing number of states have adopted or are considering building performance standard policies. Seattle’s BEPS, along with similar policies in New York City, Boston, Washington DC, and Colorado, are models for cities, counties, and states across the country to address a significant source of emissions from existing large buildings.

And follow the lead of our iconic Space Needle.

Clean & Prosperous Washington is a project of the Washington Business Alliance.
Contact us at info@cleanprosperouswa.com