Chicago Joins Energy Benchmarking Cities


Thousands of large buildings across the Chicago skyline will be required to report their energy use and authorize the city to disclose the numbers to the public under a new mandate.

Chicago City Council approved the benchmarking ordinance to “further cement Chicago’s status as a center for sustainability and green jobs,” according to an announcement made by the Mayor’s office Sept. 11.

“Good data drives markets and innovation,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.

“This ordinance will accelerate Chicago’s growth as capital for green jobs by arming building owners, real estate companies, energy service companies and others with the information they need to make smart, cost-saving investments.”

The council passed the initiative, introduced by Mayor Emanuel, by a vote of 32 to 17.

Growing Trend

Chicago is the ninth U.S. city to pass an energy benchmarking ordinance.

The eight others are New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Minneapolis, Boston, Seattle, Austin and San Francisco.

Washington State and California are the only two states that currently require energy benchmarking.

Chicago’s Mandate

Under the Chicago ordinance, 3,500 commercial, residential and municipal buildings over 50,000 square feet will be required to track and verify energy consumption using Portfolio Manager, a free web-based tool administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Mayor Emanuel
City of Chicago

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the benchmarking measure will produce data needed to drive the market and innovate.

The buildings will report energy use data annually to the city through an automated process and are further required to have their data verified every three years by a licensed architect, engineer or other professional recognized by the city.

Chicago plans to publish an annual report on energy efficiency. Further, the ordinance will allow the city to publicly disclose individual building energy performance beginning in June 2015, according to the Mayor’s Office.

Designed for Compliance

The new ordinance is streamlined for easy compliance, according to city officials.

Commercial and municipal buildings are to report in two groups.

The first group, consisting of buildings large than 250,000 square feet, will first report in June 2014, city officials said.

The second group, consisting of buildings that fall between 50,000-250,000 square feet, will first report in June 2015.

Residential structures within those two groups of covered buildings will have an additional year to comply with the ordinance.

Public disclosure of energy efficiency data for each group will not occur until one year after the compliance date, according to city officials.

Buildings Excluded, Exempt

Certain buildings are not covered under the new ordinance and do not have comply. They are industrial facilities, storage units and hazardous use units. There are further exemptions for brand new construction or buildings facing financial distress, according to the Mayor.

Consumption data will not be disclosed publicly for buidlings with more than 10 percent of floor space dedicated to data centers, TV studios or trading floors, city officials added.

Support from Businesses

More than 80 organizations from Chicago’s real estate, energy and environmental communities have voiced support for the measure.

"We endorse Chicago's efforts to enact an ordinance that makes building energy performance information available to everyone and any time,” said Dan Probst, chairman of Energy and Sustainability Services for Jones Lang LaSalle.

“Our experience is that full disclosure of performance information, like ENERGY STAR ratings, is one of the most effective ways to achieve energy efficiency. It gives every building a public incentive to improve energy performance, and that is really powerful.”

EPA Study

A 2012 study by the EPA cited average energy savings of 7 percent for buildings that used its Portfolio Manager from 2008-2011.

Energy Report
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA said in a 2012 study  that buildings that used its Portfolio Manager from 2008-2011 had an average energy savings of 7 percent.

If the buildings covered under Chicago’s ordinance make energy improvements that result in only 5 percent energy savings, this will result in a $250 million investment, the city said, noting that the investment will also create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by removing the equivalent of at least 50,000 cars from the roads.


Tagged categories: Building Envelope; Commercial Buildings; Energy codes; Energy efficiency; Energy Star; EPA; Regulations

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