Chicago’s integrated building retrofit program is reducing energy use city-wide by targeting residents, businesses, and municipal buildings

The Challenge

Responsible for 71% of the city’s emissions, buildings are Chicago’s biggest polluter. Therefore, a far-reaching and integrated program to target energy efficiency in all buildings is an important step towards tackling climate change in the Windy City.

The Solution

The USA’s third-largest city is tackling municipal, residential, and commercial building energy use through its comprehensive and engaging Retrofit Chicago program. Under the municipal program, 60 public libraries, police stations, community centers, and other public facilities are undergoing comprehensive energy retrofits worth $12.2 million in investments, resulting in an 18% energy use reduction across more than 455,000 square meters of public buildings. To target the private sector, 50 buildings, representing 3.7 million square meters of commercial, institutional, hotel, and higher education space, have committed to improve energy efficiency by 20% within five years.

Finally, the residential component of Retrofit Chicago has coordinated between utilities, financiers, and nonprofit partners to retrofit 18,000 residential units, install 128,000 low-flow water fixtures and programmable thermostats, and save residents more than $7 million annually. The Chicago Energy Data Map has also increased residents’ awareness of energy use by providing Chicagoans with access to interactive, block-by-block data on building energy use. Streamlining these three initiatives into one program has allowed Retrofit Chicago to maintain clear, strong messaging and engage citizens and businesses in the energy efficiency upgrade effort.

Environmental Benefits – The program reduces buildings’ energy requirements, which helps make onsite renewable energy generation more affordable.

Social Benefits – Retrofit Chicago’s residential program focuses on economically-disadvantaged communities, helping to improve energy efficiency and lower utility costs for those most in need.

Economic Benefits – Chicago’s electric utility estimates that commercial participants’ efficiency efforts have delivered more than $350,000 in savings to Chicago’s electricity grid.

About Cities100

Presented by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), Sustainia and Realdania – Cities100 showcases leading solutions to urban climate challenges in ten sectors, ranging from solid waste management to 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 2015 publication online here.

  • Economic
  • Environmental
  • Social
Key Impact
50,000 tCO2 emissions avoided so far through smart-suite programs
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