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City of Chicago Energy Benchmarking Reports are due June 1, 2019, for buildings 50,000 square feet or larger

Air duct leakage shown above using visible light

What is happening in Chicago in 2019 regarding energy benchmarking?
The City of Chicago passed an ordinance in 2017, updating its prior Energy Benchmarking Ordinance.  It requires the operators of every building in the city over 50,000 square feet to report certain energy usage data each year.  The 2019 data is due by June 1.
What will be different this year is:

  • The data is going to be converted into a score (on a scale of zero to 100) and a star rating, on a scale of one to four stars (or zero for buildings which fail to report).  Buildings whose scores improve by 10 points year over year will get an extra star.  Scores and stars are expected to be issued by August 1.
  • The star rating for each building will be publicized.  The buildings will have to post their ratings in prominent places, and the city will make the data available online.

The ordinance does not mandate any actual improvements in energy efficiency, but clearly the hope is to inspire building owners to improve their buildings’ performance.  More details are available via this link and the city also provided a list of frequently asked questions with answers.

Will this requirement spread to smaller buildings and/or the suburbs?
Cook County already mandates the submission of benchmarking data on county owned and operated buildings over 35,000 square feet, and the City of Evanston requires it for public buildings over 10,000 square feet and private buildings over 20,000 square feet, with some condominium buildings excepted.  Neither currently goes as far as where the City of Chicago is moving this year in terms of publicizing the data.  But it would stand to reason that the City ordinance could inspire similar requirements elsewhere.

What can a building owner do to improve its ratings?
We are going to surprise absolutely no one by suggesting an annual cleaning of your evaporator and condenser coils, and considering sealing your leaky ducts using the Aeroseal process.  We put a flashlight into a fairly typical commercial air duct and snapped the photo above.  If that much light can get out, imagine how much conditioned air it loses in a year!

Have a great summer!  It has to get here sooner or later . . .