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City of Chicago Passes Benchmarking Ordinance

On September 11, 2013, the City of Chicago passed a building energy benchmarking and disclosure policy for public, commercial, and high rise residential buildings making it the ninth city in the U.S. and second city in the Midwest to pass this kind of ordinance. Building owners, investors, and operation managers in the City will now have better information to understand the efficiency levels within their buildings. The City of Chicago will also have a better means and ability to track the energy use reductions related to their Sustainable Chicago 2015 Plan.

In their press release, the City of Chicago noted the ordinance was supported by a coalition of more than 80 leading organizations from Chicago’s real estate, energy, and environmental communities, as well as building professional organizations. These groups, including MEEA, supported the measure because of its potential to grow Chicago’s energy efficiency market, create green jobs, and spur continued investment in the city’s existing building stock.

The ordinance requires building owners and managers to submit annual, energy use data for buildings greater than 50,000 square feet to the City of Chicago. This affects roughly 1% of all structures within the city, representing approximately 22% of the energy use.  The Ordinance utilizes an industry standard, web based program for submission – EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager.  The disclosure requirement is coupled with a phased-in and transparency commitment by the City to release the energy use statistics to the public. Residential buildings will have additional time to collect their data, submit it, and before it becomes publically available. Below is an outline of this timeframe:

  • Commercial and Public Buildings larger than 250,000 square feet to submit their first year of energy use data by June 2014 and every year after on the same date (i.e. annual energy use).
  • Commercial and Public Buildings greater than 50,000 square feet must submit their first year of energy use data by June 2015 and every year after on the same date (i.e. annual energy use).
  • Residential Buildings larger than 250,000 square feet to submit their first year of energy use data by June 2015 and every year after on the same date (i.e. annual energy use).
  • Residential Buildings greater than 50,000 square feet must submit their first year of energy use data by June 2016 and every year after on the same date (i.e. annual energy use).
  • The first submission of information for all building types will not be disclosed to the public. The second year of data submission will be made public, most likely through the City of Chicago Data Portal. Individual contact information of the building owners and all individual tenants will remain private. Data will likely be ascribed to the address of the building or by census tract.

Unlike other ordinances passed in Austin, TX, New York, NY, and San Francisco, CA where mandated upgrades were included, the Chicago version requires building owners only to disclose their annual energy use data. Aggregated on a building wide basis, this quantifies the total energy use for the building as a whole into an EUI or “energy use intensity” score. The City will rely on market forces and/or building owner choice to implement energy saving projects or upgrades.

As energy use data becomes available through disclosure, it will allow building owners, tenants, building professionals, and potential investors to make more informed decisions on the buildings they design, operate, and consider for investing. Businesses who decide to implement energy efficiency measures gain additional opportunity to be more economically competitive.

For further information, please contact Steve Kismohr, Sr. Technical Manager at the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, at 312.784.7257 or email him at skismohr@mwalliance.org.