Chicago Eyes Buildings to Meet Decarbonization Goal

Chicago Skyline
Published On
Jun 14, 2021

Earlier this year, the city of Chicago set the goal of dramatically reducing emissions from the built environment in the city and furthering a “green economic recovery.” Buildings presently account for 70% of Chicago’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the city said it must reduce energy consumption in buildings to meet its long-term climate goals.

On June 2, as part of its plans to move ahead in this direction, the city announced that a newly formed 55-member Building Decarbonization Working Group will craft recommendations to help the city achieve its decarbonization goals.

“This effort will lead to a significant step toward the City’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and power 100% of buildings citywide with renewable energy by 2035,” the city stated in a press release.   

Over the past several months, the mayor’s office and the Department of Buildings have researched best practices by peer cities with building decarbonization programs. They have also hosted focus groups with key local stakeholders, including labor, property owners, affordable housing organizations, green jobs organizations, small businesses, manufacturing, building developers, design professionals and youth. Through its research and conversations with stakeholders, the city determined that the technologies already exist either to have highly energy-efficient buildings with on-site renewable energy generation or to procure enough carbon-free energy to meet building energy consumption needs.

“The Department of Buildings is committed to working with these stakeholders to identify and implement building decarbonization strategies that will leverage existing technologies while balancing the cost of implementation with the urgency of climate change,” said Matt Beaudet, commissioner for the Department of Buildings. “The framework is there—through our recent and ongoing building code modernization efforts—for us to determine expedient and equitable solutions.” 

The working group will spend the next few month developing policies and programs for building decarbonization that are equitable and that fall into one of four categories: energy efficiency, innovation and building design in new construction, renewable energy and building electrification.

The working group consists of representatives from the private, public and non-profit sectors that represent the wide array of stakeholders whose collaboration will be needed to decarbonize buildings across Chicago. Two of the members are Terry McGoldrick, representing IBEW Local 15, and Robert Hattier, representing IBEW Local 134.

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