Ellensburg Energy Efficiency & Conservation Strategy

In 2009, the City of Ellensburg received funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to develop an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (EECS) to provide guidance and structure to the City as it continues its efforts to reduce overall energy consumption, thereby fostering cost savings, economic development, and long term sustainability.  Ellensburg paired this funding with an initiative to update their Land Development Code (LDCU) in a unique integration of energy efficiency and land use.

The completed EECS provides a snapshot of current energy efficiency efforts, identifies high-level goals, and identifies ideas to pursue in focus areas prioritized by the community in stakeholder research. It also includes case studies to inspire local actions to reduce community energy consumption, promote conservation, foster cost savings, and ensure long term sustainability and rate stability. The land use code update included identifying and addressing current code deficiencies and obstacles to energy efficiency and conservation efforts.

O’Brien & Company was the successful proposer to lead a team of consultants to assist the City of Ellensburg in this combined effort. Our work consisted of developing the EECS, completing stakeholder and community outreach around the effort, assisting the planning firm’s (Makers Architecture) staff in the LDCU project, compiling recommendations related to green building and energy efficiency that should be incorporated in the 2011 code update, and research. We also facilitated technical review and educational briefings with the Planning Commission, the Utility Advisory Committee, and City Council.

A key aspect of our work and the EECS was addressing Ellensburg’s historic downtown with significantly underutilized real estate.  Although street level spaces in the downtown are mostly maintained and leased, upper stories are virtually abandoned. Retrofits could improve energy performance and make these spaces more desirable for tenants who now look for space in modern developments outside of the city core. The City has an active historic preservation interest group that was very involved in the process and our team successfully navigated the potential conflict to include key recommendations to provide incentives to renovate historic buildings in the downtown core; use infill development strategies and mixed-use development with live/work properties; and discourage demolition of existing buildings through demolition fees.

The code update was completed in summer 2011, while the complete strategy and action plan was delivered in 2012 and adopted by the City Council with unanimous approval.  Maker’s continued to pilot the code update through the approval process and saw it passed in 2013.

In 2012, the EECS was recognized by the Smart Communities Award Program with a Governor’s Judge’s Merit Award.