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First year of building benchmarking reveals huge benefits for Chicago

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December 19, 2014 | By Barbara Vergetis Lundin - FierceENERGY

The City of Chicago has found out the results of its first-ever assessment of energy use in the city's largest commercial and municipal buildings, based on reporting from 348 nonresidential buildings representing 260 million square feet of space and approximately 11 percent of citywide energy use in buildings. These buildings and others are responsible for 71 percent of Chicago's greenhouse gas emissions; however, much of the energy these buildings use is wasted.

Chicago is a participant of the City Energy Project, which develops locally tailored plans and programs to create healthier, more prosperous and resilient cities by reducing carbon pollution from their largest source -- buildings. And these programs appear to be working. The results of the city's energy use assessment reveal 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 Energy Project is a joint national initiative of the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) funded by a partnership made up of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and Kresge Foundation that aims to improve the energy efficiency of buildings in major American cities. Ten cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City, are already participating.

"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 nationwide. "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."

The report -- which the city released under its Building Energy Use Benchmarking Ordinance, which required nonresidential buildings in Chicago over 250,000 square feet to measure, verify, and report their energy use to the city by June 1, 2014 -- showed that reducing energy use per square foot (energy intensity) 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. That is huge, considering Chicagoans currently spend $3 billion a year to heat, cool, and operate their buildings.

PlantPROCORE More than 85 energy, real estate, business and public interest organizations supported the adoption of Chicago's benchmarking ordinance and continue to partner with the city to support implementation of the ordinance, reflecting overwhelming support and collaboration from a diverse mix of stakeholders including energy service providers, engineers, property managers, utilities, and nonprofit organizations.

As a result of this support, the city has achieved more than 90 percent compliance in its first year.

The city now moves to the next phase large residential buildings (over 250,000 square feet) and smaller commercial buildings (between 50,000 and 250,000 square feet) are required under the ordinance to report their energy use by June 1, 2015. Also 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.


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