Chicago - Retrofit Chicago

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Retrofit Chicago works to address both climate change and increasingly unaffordable rates for heating and cooling, which residents and businesses spend more than $3 billion a year on. The project itself dealt with a range of institutional challenges with each of Retrofit Chicago’s initiatives given the need for collaboration across governmental departments and outside organizations. In one specific instance, an energy benchmarking ordinance was opposed by real estate organizations; in response Retrofit Chicago worked directly with teams from these organizations to provide trainings in energy benchmarking and data usage. This tactic allowed for citizen engagement in the planning process and served as an educational opportunity. In another instance, Retrofit Chicago installed preliminary lighting projects and provided a survey which allowed residents to engage and provide feedback.


Retrofit Chicago has developed partnerships between many organizations including the Environmental Defense Fund and C40, giving the project a strong network to rely upon. In the long-run, the project acts as a stepping stone toward the City’s climate action plan, which aims for an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions and a 5% reduction in energy usage. The plan itself hopes to save 504,000 tonnes and $45 million annually by retrofitting Chicago’s existing buildings. Given that 2/3 of Chicago households live in a building that is at least 50 years old, compared to 1/3 of households nationwide, this will be a hugely impactful project.

Projected Outcomes

Retrofits by nature have a lasting impact for residents and the environment alike. By focusing time and resources on updating Chicago’s buildings, Retrofit Chicago has built up both financial security and climate resiliency for the city. In this sense, Retrofit Chicago serves as a valuable example of long-term strategic planning for other cities facing the same issue of building inefficiency.