Saturday, January 31, 2015

Chicago Releases Inaugural Report on Building Energy Use as Part of Larger Effort to Cut Costs, Climate Pollution

On December 17, 2014 the City of Chicago released the results from its first-ever assessment of energy use in the largest commercial and municipal buildings throughout the city, revealing the potential to reduce their energy use up to 23 percent, saving up to $77 million annually and creating more than 1,000 jobs.

“The City of Chicago’s benchmarking report showcases the wide range of benefits that can be harvested from building energy-use data. This valuable information allows building owners to work with tenants and facility managers to run their buildings more efficiently, cut citywide energy waste, and save money,” said Cliff Majersik, executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. that is a proponent of building energy benchmarking across the country. “As more cities across the country collect and analyze this data, it is clear that buildings of all types, vintages, and sizes demonstrate significant savings potential, and the results reported in Chicago’s new report are no exception.”

In partnership with numerous supporting organizations, the city released the first set of aggregate building energy-use data collected under its Building Energy Use Benchmarking Ordinance, which required the largest nonresidential buildings in Chicago—those over 250,000 square feet in size—to measure, verify, and report their energy use to the city by June 1, 2014. Today’s report examines collective 2013 energy-use data from the city’s largest commercial and municipal buildings. Residential buildings over 250,000 square feet will be phased in to the benchmarking ordinance in 2015, along with nonresidential buildings from 50,000–250,000 square feet in size.

The report showed that reducing energy intensity (the energy use per square foot) of reporting buildings could reduce the buildings’ energy use up to 23 percent and these reductions in energy intensity could reap between $44 million and $77 million in energy cost savings. Chicagoans currently spent $3 billion a year to heat, cool, and operate their buildings.
View of Chicago from Willis Tower
Andrew Horne - Flickr: Chicago via Wikepedia
The investments needed to reach these reductions could also create more than 1,000 jobs to implement the energy efficiency upgrades in the buildings, in sectors such as energy design and engineering and energy contracting.
The data offers an unprecedented amount of information about how Chicago’s largest nonresidential buildings are using energy, based on reporting from 348 buildings representing 260 million square feet of space and approximately 11 percent of citywide energy use in buildings. Overall, the buildings required to report in 2014 had a median ENERGY STAR score above national averages and in line with comparable buildings in other major U.S. markets such as New York City and Washington, D.C. Buildings are responsible for 71 percent of Chicago’s greenhouse gas emissions, and are responsible for more than half of the greenhouse gas emissions in most U.S. cities–more than either the transportation or industrial sectors. Much of the energy these buildings use, however, is wasted.
More than 85 energy, real estate, business and public interest organizations supported the adoption of Chicago’s benchmarking ordinance, and many of these organizations have continued to partner with the City to support implementation of the ordinance.
“Through the partnership, we achieved more than 90 percent compliance,” said Anne Evens, CEO of Elevate Energy, a nonprofit organization that worked with the City of Chicago to manage the Chicago Energy Benchmarking Help Center, and also contributed to data analysis for the benchmarking report....

Following this report, the city and its partners move into the second phase of implementation, with large residential buildings over 250,000 square feet and smaller commercial buildings—those between 50,000 and 250,000 square feet—required to report their energy use by June 1, 2015. In addition, in June 2015 the city is authorized under the ordinance to publicly disclose individual building energy performance for those buildings that reported energy use data in 2014, beyond the sector-wide totals released today.

Chicago is currently participating in the City Energy Project, a joint initiative of IMT and the NRDC that aims to improve the energy efficiency of buildings in 10 major American cities. Other participants include Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City. The program is developing locally tailored plans and programs to create healthier, more prosperous, and more resilient cities by reducing carbon pollution from their largest source: buildings. Today’s report is an important step forward toward achieving those goals.
ABOUT THE CITY ENERGY PROJECT: The City Energy Project is a national initiative from the Institute for Market Transformation and the Natural Resources Defense Council to create healthier and more prosperous American cities by improving the energy efficiency of buildings. Working in partnership, the Project and the 10 participating cities will support innovative and practical solutions that boost local economies, reduce pollution, and create healthier environments. The project is funded by a partnership of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and Kresge Foundation. For more information, visit

ABOUT IMT: The Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization promoting energy efficiency, green building, and environmental protection in the United States and abroad. IMT's work addresses market failures that inhibit investment in energy efficiency and sustainability in the building sector. For more information, visit

ABOUT NRDC: The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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