December 18, 2014


The City of Chicago just released its first-ever energy benchmarking report from data collected under the Energy Benchmarking Ordinance. The 2014 City of Chicago Building Energy Benchmarking Report finds millions of dollars in savings are possible in the city's largest nonresidential buildings. The findings are based on the first set of benchmarking data from 2013, provided by building owners and managers (or their representatives) who have measured, verified, and reported their energy usage with the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool.

(Here's a link to the report -

Epstein's director of project management, Jason Chandler, AIA, LEED AP, was a member of the American Institute of Architects AIA-Chicago 2030 Working Group, which collaborated with the City on this report providing feedback and review of the data, graphics and findings. Additionally, Jason's working group also contributed to the "Taking Action to Improve Energy Efficiency" section which provided suggestions to outline concrete actions to begin improving energy performance. Jason's group also looks forward to a greater collaboration with the City next year as more data is collected and there will be a greater possibility to analyze the data. Our perspective as Architects will assist the City in developing strategies to improve energy efficiency of existing buildings and positively inform the design process based on actual local energy use data.

Jason's participation in this AIA Working group as well as his involvement in helping with this report is a great example of our staff exemplifying Epstein's mission and vision statements which speak to 'enhancing our communities' and improving our world.

The following is a quick synopsis of Report:
This citywide effort included 348 of Chicago's largest buildings, representing 260 million square feet of space and approximately 11% of citywide energy use in buildings. According to the ordinance, municipal and commercial buildings 250,000 square feet and over were required to comply by June 1, 2014; the overall compliance rate was over 90%.

Overall, the median reported ENERGY STAR score of 76 out of 100 puts Chicago in line with other buildings of a comparable size in markets such as NYC and Washington, DC. The report
Chicago Energy Benchmarking 2 details energy consumption and energy performance metrics for five sectors: offices, healthcare, K-12 schools, higher education, and other building types (such as malls, museums, and recreational facilities), providing an unprecedented view of energy use in the largest nonresidential buildings across the city.

The report also showcases a wide range of benefits from reducing the energy intensity of all buildings to average or above-average levels:

  • Boost bottom line. Potential savings between $44 and $77 million if all buildings achieved the 50th or the 75th percentile for energy use intensity in their sector¦
  • Control energy consumption: ¦ and potential of 13%-23% total energy reduction.
  • Create new, skilled jobs. Resulting energy efficiency investments between $152-265 million could yield more than 1,000 jobs in sectors such as energy design & engineering and energy contracting.
  • Sustain healthier, more prosperous cities. Energy use in buildings contributes 71% of Chicago's greenhouse gas emissions. Improving the energy intensity of the city's largest buildings could reduce these emissions by 460,000-844,000 tons-the equivalent of removing 95,000-175,000 cars from the road.

Chicago partnered with many organizations and benchmarking supporters to provide free resources to buildings reporting under the ordinance. The city worked with the Chicago Energy Benchmarking Working Group to provide a Help Center, free online resources, a series of free trainings, and pro-bono data verification services. Many building owners, managers, and their representatives took advantage of these free resources: to-date, there have been over 800 Help Center interactions (by phone and email) and 375 individual participants in 16 free trainings. Ongoing and expanded support opportunities will continue in 2015.

Next year, residential buildings over 250,000 square feet and commercial buildings from 50,000 to 250,000 square feet will be phased in and will benchmark, verify, and report their energy use by June 1, 2015. All buildings that reported in 2014 will benchmark and report by June 1, 2015, but are not required to verify data again until 2017.