Chicago aims at being the most sustainable city of the 21st century

Chicago skyline - Park

Chicago goes green. The Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge has now exceeded 50 million square feet with 14 additional buildings having joined the Challenge since July 2016. One of the largest voluntary energy efficiency programs in the country, the program now boasts 76 buildings and 51.3 million square feet participating.

“From Rogers Park to Trumbull Park big buildings around the City are showing they can work together to reduce emissions, save money and put people to work,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “The 76 buildings participating send a clear signal around the country, especially Washington, that Chicago will continue to lead the way in sustainability.”

The new participants include six affordable housing properties owned by the Chicago Housing Authority and one new house of worship, reflecting the widening scope of the program. One-half the Challenge’s new participants, and over one-quarter of participants in total, sit outside the Central Business District. Through 2015, Chicago Energy Challenge participants have saved 90 million kilowatt-hours per year, representing 70,000 metric tons in avoided greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to removing 14,000 cars from the road.

“We are proud to partner with Retrofit Chicago to bring energy efficiency best practices to buildings throughout all of Chicago’s neighborhoods,” said Katie Kaluzny, Associate Director of the U.S. Green Building Council, Illinois Chapter. “We look forward to continued partnerships with Mayor Emanuel, the Chicago Housing Authority and others within the challenge to provide volunteer mentors and educational programming to help everyone reach their energy efficiency goals in the coming years.”

The efforts of the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenged have been bolstered by The Chicago Energy Benchmarking ordinance, which increases awareness and transparency of energy use in large buildings. Together, these properties have achieved estimated energy savings of $17.6 million per year. The next compliance period ends on June 1, 2017.

“MB Real Estate is a proud supporter of Mayor Emanuel’s Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge,” said Suzanne Hendrick, Senior Vice President and Director of Asset Management for MB Real Estate. “We have seven properties participating in the Energy Challenge with 333 North Michigan and 30 West Monroe recently reaching the 20% energy savings milestone. One North LaSalle, 55 West Wacker, and The Chicago Bar Association have recently committed to The Challenge and look forward to a successful 2017.

In keeping with the Mayor’s goal of making Chicago the most affordable, competitive and sustainable city of the 21st century, we strive to have all qualified buildings join the Challenge and continue to promote energy efficiency.”

Mayor Emanuel announced the City, addition to Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Park District, Chicago Housing Authority, and City Colleges of Chicago were committing to move their buildings’ electricity use to 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. When implemented, Chicago will be the largest major city in the country to have a 100 percent renewable energy supply for its public buildings.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the City of Chicago earned a 2017 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award. It is given annually to honor organizations that have made outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through energy efficiency. And last month the Mayor announced that the Smart Lighting Project will start on the South and West Sides this summer.

In January, Mayor Emanuel announced that Chicago has reduced its carbon emissions by seven percent from 2010 to 2015. The reduction in greenhouse gases came at the same time Chicago saw a 25,000 person increase in its population and 12 percent growth in the region’s economy and jobs within the city. The emissions reduction, equivalent to shutting down a coal power plant for eight months, compares to a one percent increase in nationwide emissions from 2009 to 2014.

The Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge is a collaboration of the City of Chicago, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, City Energy Project, the Institute for Market Transformation, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Alliance to Retrofit Chicago Higher Education, the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. The program draws on sponsorship and technical support from The Joyce Foundation, World Business Chicago, BOMA/Chicago, Sieben Energy Associates, AECOM and Seventhwave. To-date, program participants have received millions of dollars in energy utility incentive funding through ComEd and Peoples Gas to support efficiency improvements.


by Henry McWolf


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