Retrofits Take Chicago's Buildings into the Future

09/01/2014 |

Best practices help optimize reductions in energy use

CHICAGO takes a big step toward energy efficiency by challenging 48 buildings to reduce energy consumption by 20% within five years.

The Retrofit Chicago Commercial Buildings Initiative has published a report on five best practices other cities can use when implementing energy use reduction programs.

Since June 2012, the City of Chicago and the Commercial Buildings Initiative have worked to reduce buildings’ energy use by 20% within five years.

Since beginning with 14 member buildings, the program has seen its membership swell to 48, which includes 37 million square feet of committed space and encompasses sectors from commercial office buildings and hotels to university facilities and cultural institutions.

Collectively, participants have reduced weather-normalized source energy use by 7% from 2010 to 2013. The five recommendations derived from their work include:

  1. Cross-sector partnerships between public, private, and non-profit partners provided facilities managers with the ability to maximize resources and drive measurable energy use reduction efforts. These partnerships allowed collaboration between professionals to address individual needs such as tenant outreach and lease structure assistance.
  2. A rapid ramp-up period backed by leaders in the commercial, utilities, municipal, and non-profit sectors helped participants see early gains from the initiative and provided support for longer-term energy reduction goals.
  3. Commitment and setting targets helped drive aggressive energy reduction policies by clearly communicating with occupants. By making clear goals, building managers were able to communicate effectively the usefulness and efficiency of the ongoing upgrades, giving occupants a clearer time scale as to when the upgrades should be completed.
  4. Utility energy efficiency incentives were incorporated into capital planning. By working closely with utility companies, the program participants were able to get a clearer picture of how utility company incentives would play into the process of making a business case for efficiency upgrades by offsetting some of the initial cost.
  5. One-on-one and peer support were provided to new members of the program in the form of “Welcome Calls” conducted by the city director and a technical partner. Together they could help each individual participant identify utility incentives they qualified for and also highlighted programs, tools, and other organizations that could help find new opportunities for efficiency improvements.

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