Chicago Proposes Energy Benchmarking Law for Buildings

by ‐ Tags: benchmarking policy, tracking and benchmarking, alternative energy

Adhering to the plan outlined in the Sustainable Chicago 2015 Action Agenda, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has introduced an energy benchmarking ordinance that would require large commercial, municipal, and residential buildings to track and report their energy use.  The ordinance would affect buildings over 50,000 square feet and would cover approximately 3,500 buildings in Chicago!  If passed, the city will be able to publicly disclose building performance data starting one year after the particular building is required to comply with the law.  Along with the main goals to accelerate energy efficiency in the built environment and to unlock real estate value, the ordinance is also expected to encourage investment, create jobs, and spur economic growth.  

Details of the Ordinance

The ordinance states that buildings over 50,000 square feet will be required to receive an EPA Energy Star Score, track and verify their energy consumption.  The proposed compliance dates are:

            Commercial and Municipal Buildings:

            Residential Buildings:

After one year of compliance, the city would be able to publish individual building performance data, adding a public incentive for owners to improve efficiency.  Exempt from the law are industrial facilities, storage units, hazardous use units, as well as certain newly constructed units and those that are facing financial distress. 

Joining the Club of Mandatory Energy Benchmarking

Chicago is now set to join a strong list of cities that have enacted energy benchmarking disclosure laws.  The other cities include Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Minneapolis, Washington, DC, Austin, and the states of Washington and California. More information on each ordinance is easily accessible in our Building Energy Disclosure Laws Guide

The purpose of these ordinances is far from just environmental.  Municipalities are looking to capitalize on the growth opportunities with more transparency in the building energy efficiency business.  From Chicago’s standpoint, it is a win-win scenario.  The Office of the Mayor press release cites a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study that says the average energy savings for buildings using the EPA’s Portfolio Manager from 2008-2011 were 7%.  That 7% means jobs, investment, expansion, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Our own CTO at WegoWise has endorsed Boston's disclosure law BERDO and discussed how mandatory energy benchmarking is a good thing.

What will happen when 3,500 of the largest buildings in Chicago are reporting their energy ratings?  The city will get smarter. As detailed in this blog post from the Institute for Market Transformation; New York City has already gathered valuable information.  The information gap that currently exists obstructs property and financial markets from functioning efficiently.  According to the press release, if the 3,500 buildings that will be covered by this ordinance have an average of 5% energy savings, it will lead to a $250 million investment. 

Whether this law affects you or not we hope your awareness is rising in regards to the benefits of benchmarking.  If it does affect you, don't risk being late for your reporting deadline - contact WegoWise for assistance with the process. We've helped hundreds of buildings in cities with disclosure laws report on time, and can push data to ENERGY STAR's Portfolio Manager with just a click of a button.