Chicago is pursuing energy efficiency retrofits for the city's aging housing stock. In partnership with private, public, and nonprofit stakeholders, Chicago aims to cut energy consumption by 20% over five years.


The Challenge

Buildings are responsible for an estimated 70% of Chicago's total emissions. Driving this down is key to unlocking easy carbon savings for the city.


The Solution

Chicago is the third-largest city in the USA, and in an attempt to cut emissions and utility bills across multiple sectors, Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced Retrofit Chicago, targeting residential, commercial, and municipal buildings. By bringing together expertise from multiple stakeholders in one place, the city can provide incentives and accessible energy efficiency upgrades for all. Retrofit Chicago feeds into the larger, city-wide Chicago Climate Action Plan calling for CO2 reductions of 80% by 2050. Around two-thirds of Chicago citizens live in a building 50 years of age or older, a third higher than the USA average, resulting in many power-hungry and leaky buildings. In the residential sphere, the city offers free energy assessments and expert recommendations as well as free installation of energy-saving products such as LED lights and certified water-saving showerheads. The city has also embarked on 'one of the largest municipal lighting modernization programs in the country,'replacing 85% of the inefficient high-pressure sodium public street lights with power-saving LEDs. So far, changes via this simple scheme have resulted in 173,000 tons of CO2 reductions.


Social Benefits –  Several Retrofit Chicago projects have targeted Chicago's low-income, working-class neighborhoods. Investments in these properties improve the overall building stock for Chicago's lowand middle-income earners and provide utility savings for homes.

Health Benefits –  Retrofitting homes with improved insulation not only improves energy efficiency but also means that residents can afford to heat their homes during cold winter nights, preventing temperature-related illness.


About Cities100

Presented by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), Sustainia and Realdania – Cities100 2017 showcases leading solutions to urban climate challenges in five sectors: Energy, Waste, Adaptation, Mitigation and Transportation.

Available online and in print, Cities100 provides stakeholders an accessible format to explore achievable solutions for climate action in cities, and will be a useful tool for relevant groups ranging from impact investors and development organizations, to mayors and city governments. You can access the full Cities100 2017 publication online here.