Chicago Launches Energy Rating System Requirements for Buildings

Chicago Skyline

On August 21, the City of Chicago announced that it has become the first city in the nation to implement a large building energy rating system requirement, called the Chicago Energy Rating System.

The system, based on an ordinance adopted in 2017, will rate building energy efficiency performance on a four-star scale. Buildings will be issued a Chicago Energy Rating Placard and will be required to display the placard in a prominent location in their property, as well as share the rating with potential buyers and/or lessees if and when they list the property for sale or lease.

The rating system will use existing and publicly-available energy data to rate buildings over 50,000 square feet, which will include approximately 3,400 properties within city limits. "Large buildings are one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in Chicago and the nation," the press release states.

Under the new law, buildings are not required to make changes or improvements in order to boost energy efficiency. However, properties that voluntarily improve their energy performance can earn an additional star in their rating. Buildings that do not comply with reporting mandates (which have been in effect since 2014) will receive zero out of four stars.

According to the City, Chicago was ranked number one in the nation for energy efficient office buildings for the last two years, based on data from the 2017 and 2018 National Green Building Adoption Index, published by the CBRE Group Inc. and Maastricht University.

The City began mailing the first batch of 2019 Energy Rating Placards to property representatives in late August and expects to have all placards mailed by mid-September.

According to the City, "The Chicago Energy Rating System and other policies that improve energy efficiency are key strategies that will enable the city to begin moving toward its 100 percent renewable energy goal. Buildings that are more efficient use less energy to operate, making renewable energy more feasible."

As noted, to date, Chicago is the first and only city in the nation to have such an energy efficiency requirement for all buildings of a certain size. Other cities, however, such as Pittsburgh, Penna., have energy benchmarking report requirements for municipal buildings that are owned an operated by the city. And even this initiative is relatively new, with the city implementing the requirement in July 2019.

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