Chicago's Energy Benchmarking Ordinance

The City of Chicago adopted energy efficiency policies for both commercial and residential buildings to help reduce waste energy from residential and commercial buildings, which accounts for about one-third of the urban heat island effect, in some US cities.1 This ordinance in combination with the city's energy conservation code and utility cost disclosure ordinance seek to enhance energy efficiency in the city's building stock and reduce waste heat from buildings.

In September 2013, Chicago’s Mayor and City Council adopted the Building Energy Use Benchmarking Ordinance. The objective of the ordinance is to raise awareness of energy performance through information and transparency with the goal of opening up energy and cost saving opportunities for businesses and residents. The City's Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection enforces the ordinance, and non-compliance holds a daily fine.

The mandate applies to existing commercial, institutional, and residential buildings larger than 50,000 square feet. This covers less than 1% of Chicago’s buildings, which account for approximately 20% of total building energy use. The ordinance has three parts: 

  1. Benchmark Energy Use (annually): Covered buildings track whole-building energy use using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, which is a free online tool offered by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
  2. Verify Energy Data (every 3 years): In the first year in which buildings benchmark, and every third year after, buildings have energy use data reviewed by a trained professional.
  3. Report to the City (annually): The City reports each year on aggregate energy efficiency trends, and the ordinance authorizes the City to share building-specific data with the public beginning with buildings' second year of reported information.

As part of the Energy Benchmarking initiative, Chicago offers training and guidance to building owners through a full-time help center hotline for compliance with ordinance requirements.  The city has also worked with local utilities to ensure access to whole-building energy use data for buildings with multiple tenants, simplifying the process of data collection. Building-specific data is available on the City's Energy Benchmarking website.2 According to their annual report, over 1,800 properties tracked and reported energy information in 2015. The data also highlighted opportunities to save over $100 million per year through improved energy efficiency.3  

The ordinance was adopted by amending Title 18 of the City's Municipal Code to include a new Chapter 18-14 regarding building energy use benchmarking.

Publication Date: September 2013

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