Chicago’s biggest buildings have eliminated more than 28,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions and saved $2.5 million in annual avoided energy costs through retrofits, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council report.
The Retrofit Chicago Commercial Business Initiative offers a replicable model for other municipalities, the report says.
Dozens of the city’s most recognizable buildings have pledged to reduce their energy consumption by 20 percent over five years as part of the initiative. Program participant buildings range in age from 3 to 125 years old and include cultural institutions, tourist attractions, hotels, university facilities and some of the city’s most iconic office towers.
To achieve those goals, buildings get access to incentives and technical expertise from program partners NRDC and ComEd. Retrofits include a shift to more efficient lighting, revamped heating and cooling systems tied to motion detectors, upgraded ventilation systems and HVAC motors, as well as direct work with tenants to improve efficiency in their office spaces.
According to NRDC’s evaluation, the participating buildings have already cut energy usage by 7 percent in less than two years, putting them on target to fulfill their goals.
In September 2013, the Chicago City Council passed the energy use benchmarking measure proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanual earlier that year. The new law requires owners of commercial, residential and municipal buildings over 50,000 square feet to track and verify energy consumption using the EPA’s Portfolio Manager, starting in 2014. The information about individual buildings will be publicly available starting in 2015.
The Chicago Building Owners and Managers Association opposed mandating public disclosure of energy usage, saying it would penalize older buildings in terms of competitiveness. But proponents said there are no mandatory requirements to improve energy efficiency, only a requirement to benchmark energy efficiency, which could provide valuable information about energy waste.