Benchmarking 101 Making Energy Costs Fair for One and All

Energy is money. And in big condo buildings, energy is big money—we’re talking thousands upon thousands of dollars in waste or savings. Most folks know that turning off lights in unoccupied rooms, taking shorter showers, and turning down the thermostat a couple of degrees can help save energy—and by extension, money. Helping an entire building cut costs and reduce its carbon footprint can be a little trickier, however, which is why many co-op and condo buildings hire professional energy consultants to assess their energy profile and make recommendations as to how it might be improved.

It is very important for boards and management to understand what the energy consultants are looking for within a building—and how they should work with boards and managers to suggest and implement greener, money-saving measures for buildings of every size. It's also legally necessary to understand the legality of the new energy laws if you’re working for or in a Chicago-area building.

Local Laws

In September 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago’s City Council adopted a building energy benchmarking ordinance to raise awareness of energy performance in its building infrastructure. The ordinance calls on existing municipal, commercial and residential buildings larger than 50,000 square feet to track whole building energy use, to report to the city annually, and to verify data accuracy every three years. The law covers less than 1 percent of Chicago’s buildings, which account for about 20 percent of total energy used by all buildings.

Improving energy efficiency is a key element of Sustainable Chicago 2015, Mayor Emanuel’s 3-year action agenda to make Chicago more livable, competitive and sustainable. The first compliance deadline is June 1, 2014 for municipal and commercial buildings larger than 250,000 square feet. The second group, consisting of buildings that fall between 50,000–250,000 square feet, will first report in June of 2015. Residential buildings within each of these groups of covered buildings will have an additional year to comply with the ordinance, with buildings of more than 250,000 square feet first reporting in June 2015 and buildings in the 50,000-250,000 square foot range first reporting in 2016. Public disclosure of energy efficiency data for each group could not occur until a year after the compliance date.

Benchmarking, verification and reporting deadlines for additional buildings covered by the ordinance will phase-in through 2016—and unless building managers and board prepare themselves and the board for benchmarking, they won’t be able to pass.


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