On September 11, 2013, the Chicago City Council passed the ordinance on energy benchmarking requiring landlords to show how much energy their buildings use. The new law requires the owners of commercial, residential and municipal buildings in Chicago to track energy consumption and report the findings to the city. The ordinance does not require buildings to improve energy consumption, just report it. Mayor Rahm Emanuel supported the measure and the opposition block was not able to stop it. The ordinance passed the City Council in a 32-17 vote.
The measure was criticized by some members of the local commercial real estate industry, like BOMA, which made it clear in a statement that public disclosure of low scores will only put low scoring buildings at a further disadvantage and potentially jeopardize their ability to attract and retain tenants.
While other local commercial property executives supported the bill, Ald. Brendan Reilly proposed a new ordinance to exempt residential properties from the rule. The proposal was sent to the Finance Committee, where it is unclear if it will receive a hearing. As part of a compromise from the mayor’s office, it was announced that residential building owners were given an extra year to collect and disclose the information after some building owners expressed concern that collecting energy information from individual tenants could prove onerous.
Only the largest condominium buildings would benchmark and disclose their energy use since fewer than one percent of Chicago’s buildings are larger than 50,000 square feet, but these big buildings represent 22% of all energy use in our built environment. The Ordinance would require residential buildings over 50,000 square feet to track and report their total building energy use, starting in 2015 for residential buildings 250,000 square feet or larger, and starting in 2016 for residential buildings 50,000-250,000 square feet. Because the Ordinance focuses on the largest buildings, it would not affect walk-ups or buildings with just a few units.