In an effort to cut down on energy consumption in a variety of buildings across Chicago, including some of Chicago’s historic buildings, the city implemented a voluntary program, known as the Commercial Building Initiative of Retrofit Chicago, which provides guidelines for participation in order to propel the city towards a more energy efficient and sustainable future. The program launched in 2012 with the following goals:
- Within five years, participating buildings must reduce their energy usage by 20%.
- Buildings must track their progress and collect data on their efficiency by utilizing Energy Star Portfolio Manager.
- Participating buildings must become “ambassadors” for the project by encouraging other buildings to join the program and become more energy efficient.
While the program started with 14 participants in 2012, it continues to grow each year and in 2014 alone saved the city 2.5 million dollars and reduced energy usage by 7%. As of 2016, 60 buildings are now participating in the initiative. In addition to the commercial effort, there are Retrofit Chicago programs for residential buildings and single family homes, such as historic Chicago bungalows, as well as municipal buildings. As of 2014, over 100,000 qualifying households across the city received basic home upgrades, like insulation and foundation crack repair, which resulted in a city-wide savings of 5.9 million dollars and a 15% reduction in energy usage.
Not only have these efforts been successful at reducing Chicago’s energy usage and carbon footprint, the Retrofit Chicago initiative is a more sustainable way to bolster the already existing infrastructure of the city, which allows the city to retain its historic skyline and unique architecture while addressing issues of energy consumption and sustainability for the future.