Chicago Building Energy Use Benchmarking Ordinance
On September 11, 2013, the Chicago City Council voted 32 to 17 to approve the Building Energy Use Benchmarking Ordinance. Originally proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the new ordinance will require large commercial and residential building owners to measure and report their energy use to the City. The collected data will be disclosed publicly to allow building owners to compare their energy use with that of similar buildings. These data will be available to current and prospective tenants, buyers and investors, and the public at large. This should help motivate building owners to implement energy efficiency upgrades in order to save money, be more attractive to tenants, and enhance the valuation of their property.
Energy use in buildings represents 71% of the City’s carbon emissions. As a result, this ordinance will help Chicago meet its Climate Action Plan goal of reducing city-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. Improving the energy productivity of these buildings will help businesses and taxpayers save both money and energy.
Overview of the Ordinance
Covered building owners will be required to track and verify the annual energy consumption of their buildings using the ENERGY Star Portfolio Manager, a free web-based tool provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The data will then be provided to City administrators and published in an annual energy efficiency report. Every three years, reported data will have to be verified by a licensed professional recognized by the City. The ordinance will also allow the City to publicly disclose the energy performance of specific buildings starting in 2015.
The policy will be phased in over several years beginning in 2014 for all buildings over 250,000 square feet, and will ultimately apply to all buildings over 50,000 square feet. Certain buildings—including industrial facilities, storage units, and buildings facing financial distress—are exempted from the reporting requirements. The ordinance does not contain any requirements for implementing energy efficiency projects, but building owners who do not comply with the reporting requirements will be subject to fines.
Other Successes in Chicago
The Building Energy Use Benchmarking Ordinance is only one example of Chicago’s commitment to energy efficiency. Sustainable Chicago 2015 commits the City to further improving energy efficiency and energy use transparency. As a participant in the Department of Energy’s Better Building’s Challenge, Chicago has also made a commitment to reduce energy intensity by 20% across 24 million square feet of public and private buildings. In coordination with the Better Building’s Challenge, the City introduced a program called Retrofit Chicago, which creates public-private partnerships through the Chicago Investment Trust to fund cross-sector energy efficiency projects.