Chicago Energy Benchmarking Ordinance: The Break Down

For those in the Chicago area, you may have heard some buzzing in the past few years about a new ordinance that mandates City building owners to provide an annual reporting of their total energy use. This mandate is called the Chicago Energy Benchmarking Ordinance, and plays an integral role in the City’s broader Sustainable Chicago 2015 initiative by helping it achieve set goals for city-wide energy reduction.

Below is a quick breakdown of the Ordinance’s main details. One good thing to note: if you’re expected to report this year, the deadline has been extended to August 1st!


Ordinance Overview

Chicago residents and businesses spend almost $3 billion each year on energy costs, which contributes nearly 71% to Chicago’s total greenhouse gas emissions. To make Chicago more “livable, competitive, and sustainable,” the City responded in 2013 by enacting the Energy Benchmarking Ordinance, which requires that certain buildings track or “benchmark” their utility usage (i.e. electric and gas). This ordinance was created to raise awareness and help businesses and residents identify energy and cost saving opportunities.

Chicago is one of 13 U.S. cities with a benchmarking ordinance, joining others such as Austin, Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Boston. Each city is different in their requirements. Chicago requires municipal, commercial, and multifamily buildings to benchmark their usage and get data verified. The City then creates two reports: an annual consolidated summary of Chicago’s energy use for the public, and another specifically for building owners, that shows how their building compares to similar ones. So far, the ordinance requires compliance from less than 1% of the total building stock, however, those buildings contribute over 20% of all building energy use.


Does This Apply to Me as a Building Owner?

Perhaps. And if not now, then it will eventually. Today, existing commercial and municipal buildings larger than 50,000 square feet, and residential buildings over 250,000 square feet must benchmark their previous 12-months of energy use. Beginning in 2016, all buildings - including residential buildings over 50,000 square feet - will require benchmarking as well.

Benchmarking ordinance coverage

Chart courtesy of the City of Chicago and Seventh Wave of building compliance with the Chicago Energy Benchmarking Ordinance


Some buildings are exempt, including low occupancy, open air assembly units, industrial, storage, and hazardous storage buildings. If you feel this describes you, contact the Energy Benchmarking Help Center for more information.


So What Do I Need to Do?

The short version:
Benchmark your energy use.  Verify the energy data.  Report it to the City.

In need of a building verifier? You’re at the right spot. Eco Achievers is a registered service provider that can help your building meet the Chicago benchmarking ordinance requirements.


How to Benchmark Your Energy Use:

Start by identifying a member of your staff or a 3rd party contact, such as Eco Achievers, as your benchmarking lead. This person will be responsible for entering your building information and monthly utility data into ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager (the program used to do the reporting).

Once a Portfolio Manager account is created, contact your utility provider to locate whole-building energy use data for January-December for the prior year (January-December 2014 data is due August 1st). Here are some helpful resources on acquiring this information. You will need data on electricity, natural gas, and other fuel types.


How to Verify Energy Data:

This step needs to be done the first year of compliance, and then every three years following.

An accredited professional reviews and signs the data verification checklist, which is then saved for your records. This professional should be certified as any of the following:

  •        IL Professional Engineer
  •        IL Licensed Architect
  •        MEEA- Level I Certified Building Operator
  •        AEE Certified Energy Manager
  •        Hold a Building Energy Technology Certificate from City Colleges of Chicago
  •        ASHRAE Building Energy Assessment Professional

The data verification needs to be kept on record for three years; until it’s time to re-verify your data submission.


How to Report it to the City:

The Portfolio Manager program allows you to generate a report, review errors, and submit it to the City all at the same site. Once that’s completed, just sign it at the end.


And if I Don’t?

For those whose reporting is due this year, the new deadline is August 1st, 2015. This is a one-time extension. In the future, submissions are due by June 1st. The penalty for noncompliance is $100 plus $25/day, with a maximum penalty of $9,200 annually.


Questions or Comments?

Let us know! We’re here to help. The administrative and reporting details can be a little tedious, but once you’re rolling, it will all come together - not to mention the knowledge that will be gleaned, utilities decreased, and overall energy saved for you and fellow Chicagoans because of doing it. Allow Eco Achievers to help you meet the Chicago benchmarking ordinance and we’ll handle the data verification and reporting for you.


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