(Blog post courtesy of DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy State & Local Spotlight)

The City of Chicago has been getting a lot of attention for its efforts to reduce energy use in buildings, and for good reason: its efforts are a valuable example of long-term strategic planning for other cities. When Chicago committed to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Better Buildings Challenge in 2012, it set a goal to reduce its energy use intensity by 20% in 10 years. In 2018 Chicago exceeded its goal by 2%, achieving a 22% energy intensity improvement across its 24 million-square-foot commitment – five years ahead of schedule! As a result of this achievement, Chicago has cumulatively saved approximately $48 million and 5.2 trillion BTUs, which not only equates to saving taxpayer dollars, but also improves the competitiveness of local building owners and businesses, creates jobs, and reduces pollution in the process.

When Chicago joined the Better buildings Challenge, it simultaneously launched Retrofit Chicago, a local voluntary energy efficiency program intended to encourage, support, and celebrate energy performance improvement in municipal, commercial, and residential buildings. The Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge is one of three components of the city’s broader Retrofit Chicago program, which includes over 80 buildings spanning 55 million square feet that have committed to reduce energy use by 20% within five years of joining the program. Many of these buildings have also partnered with Chicago in joining the Better Buildings Challenge and through their participation are reducing operating costs, increasing asset value, creating local jobs, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

To facilitate participants’ progress toward meeting their Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge commitment, the city leveraged public-private partnerships to deliver customized Energy Road Maps with technical and strategic recommendations aimed at maximizing internal rate of return and utility incentives. This type of assistance offered through the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge along with other investments in energy efficiency have helped Chicago to realize its Better Buildings Challenge energy savings goal ahead of schedule.

DOE isn’t the only one recognizing Chicago for its leadership and impressive achievements. Chicago ranked first in CBRE’s 2018 U.S. Green Building Adoption Index released last month (12 other Better Building Challenge partners were also featured in this year’s ranking) and was able to repeat its position atop CBRE’s annual ranking due to the city’s incredible green building certification numbers: 70% of its surveyed office space holds a LEED or ENERGY STAR® certification. The Retrofit Chicago program was previously recognized for its accomplishments and contributions to market transformation by increasing the energy efficiency of buildings throughout the city, earning the Cities4Energy award in 2017 from the C40 Cities Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards and the Inspiring Efficiency Impact Award in 2015 from the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.

Learn more about Chicago and our other Better Buildings Local Government partners on the Better Buildings Solution Center.

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