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State and Local Building Efficiency Regulations & Policies: Chicago

In this series, we’re exploring state and local building efficiency regulations to give you a bird’s-eye view of the policies that may impact your portfolio.

The Windy City’s Climate Action Plan calls for a 25% reduction in citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (relative to 1990) and an 80% reduction by 2050. Chicago boasts 23,000 commercial and industrial buildings and more than one million residential units, which means that enhancing building efficiency will be essential to meeting its goals.1

Fortunately, Chicago is a well-known pioneer of “Green Building,” and was named the 7th LEED Platinum city in the world in 2017.2 It has notably committed to meeting LEED Silver and higher standards for all its municipal buildings and has 5.6 million square feet of green roofs.3 The city also requires buildings greater than 50,000 square feet to participate in energy disclosure and to publicly display building efficiency ratings (see the table below for more info).

Beyond policy and regulation, Chicago also offers multiple voluntary programs. As a participant in the Better Buildings Challenge, the city is targeting a 20% building energy reduction by 2022 relative to 2011 levels and has set a goal to transition to 100% renewable energy in buildings across the city by 2035 (as a part of Resilient Chicago). The city has also seen success with its Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge, which provides rebates and rewards for building efficiency upgrades.

Learn more about how Aquicore makes it easy to collect the energy data needed to comply with local, city, and state benchmarking regulations.

We’ve compiled the key building energy requirements, policies, and plans for the Chicago area. Keep reading for the full list: 

State / City / County Name Type of Regulation / Policy / Initiative Description Effective Date
Chicago, IL Energy Benchmarking Ordinance Energy Benchmarking Commercial and residential buildings greater than 50,000 square feet must track and report their annual energy usage in Energy Star portfolio manager tool. These buildings must also disclose their Energy Star Score (1-100), energy use intensity and greenhouse gas emissions, which the city will publicly disclose. 2013
Chicago, IL Chicago Energy Rating System Energy Efficiency (Existing Buildings) Commercial and residential buildings greater than 50,000 square feet will receive an energy performance star rating based on their Energy Star Score. These buildings must also post an energy rating card, provided by the commissioner, on their building in a location visible to the public and visitors. 2017
Chicago, IL Section 5-16-060 of the Municipal Code of Chicago Energy Efficiency (Existing Buildings) Building owners must disclose the cost of heating from the previous 12 months to prospective tenants. Residential building owners must also disclose a building’s natural gas and electricity costs for the previous 12 months at the time of sale. 2009
Evanston, IL Energy and Water Benchmarking Ordinance (33-O-16) Energy Efficiency (Existing Buildings) All city-owned buildings greater than 10,000 square feet; all non-condo buildings greater than 20,000 square feet; all condo buildings greater than 50,000 square feet must:
Track and report their annual energy use, verify their data or earn an ENERGY STAR certification every three years using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool. This data will be publicly disclosed in an online database.
Cook County, IL Building Energy Benchmarking Ordinance Energy Benchmarking County buildings more than 35,000 square feet must track and report their annual energy use using the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool. This data will be publicly disclosed in an online database. 2014
Cook County, IL Energy Standards for Public Buildings Energy Efficiency (Existing Buildings) All new and retrofitted (buildings scheduled for capital improvement) county buildings must be built to LEED standards and set a goal of obtaining 8 or more points in the LEED Energy and Atmosphere Category. 2002
Chicago, IL EV Ready Buildings Ordinance Energy Efficiency (Transportation) All new construction of residential buildings, with five or more units, and onsite parking and commercial properties, with 30 or more parking spaces, to have 20% of any supplied parking spaces Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) ready. 2020
Chicago, IL Green Buildings Act Energy Efficiency (New Construction, Major Renovation) All state-funded construction are required to seek LEED, Green Globes, or equivalent certification. New buildings and renovations greater than 10,000 sq feet must be at least built to LEED Silver standards or an equivalent. 2009
Chicago, IL Chicago Sustainable Development Policy (Energy Efficiency (New Construction and Moderate- Major Renovations) All commercial and residential development projects that are receiving financial assistance or special approvals (i.e. zoning changes, projects receiving tax credits, and typically most large private development projects) from the City to include sustainable elements. Building developers can achieve compliance by pursuing green building certification or meet the points required through specified sustainable strategies. See more information here. Updated in 2017
Chicago, IL The 2019 Chicago Energy Conservation Code Energy Efficiency (New Construction) The 2019 Chicago Energy Conservation Code (Title 14N of the Municipal Code), based on the 2018 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code. For every permit application with architectural plans, an Illinois-licensed architect or engineer who is familiar with the project and the Chicago Energy Conservation Code's requirements must complete a one-page compliance statement. Applies to permit applications started on or after June 1, 2019
Chicago, IL Section 1515 of the Chicago Building Code (Title 14B) Energy Efficiency (New Construction) To avoid the energy drain associated with the “heat island effect” from roofs, all roof coverings shall have a minimum solar reflectance as specified in Sections 1515.2.1 or 1515.2.2 by testing reflectance, through a label from the Cool Roof Rating Council, via an Energy Star-qualified roof product or if a building has a vegetative roof of greater than 50% of the floor area. Applies to permit applications started on or after June 1, 2019

  1. https://betterbuildingssolutioncenter.energy.gov/partners/chicago-il
  2. https://www.usgbc.org/articles/mayor-emanuel-announces-chicago-achieved-leed-cities-platinum-certification3. https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/chicago_green_roofs.html

Key Sources:

  • https://database.aceee.org/policies-targeting-existing-buildings
  • https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/program-administrators/state-and-local-governments/see-federal-state-and-local-benchmarking-policies
  • https://www.dsireusa.org/
  • https://www.ncsl.org/research/energy/energy-legislation-tracking-database.aspx