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Update Regarding Benchmarking and Disclosure Ordinance

July 13, 2015

On September 11, the Chicago City Council passed the Chicago Building Energy Use Benchmarking and Disclosure Ordinance by a vote of 32-17. Under the ordinance, commercial, residential and municipal buildings over 50,000 square feet will be required to use the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Start Portfolio Manager tool to benchmark energy usage and subsequently report the scores and data annually to the City of Chicago. Data will need to be verified by a licensed architect, engineer, or other professional recognized by the City.

Beginning in June of 2015, the City will publish an annual report on energy efficiency and will publicly disclose individual building energy performance data.  BOMA/Chicago was supportive of the benchmarking provisions of the ordinance, but opposed the public disclosure provisions which will unfairly penalize and marginalize many older and historically significant buildings in Chicago.  BOMA/Chicago argued that publishing the scores for buildings that simply cannot afford the work necessary to raise them will not “shame” those buildings into achieving higher scores. It will simply impose yet another competitive burden on an already challenged sector.

Under the ordinance:

  • All buildings 50,000 square feet and over will be required to benchmark their energy usage using the Energy Star Rating System in Portfolio Manager.
    • Buildings 250,000 square feet and over will be required to begin benchmarking by June 1, 2014.
    • 50,000 square feet and over will be required to begin benchmarking by June 1, 2015.
  • In the first year that a building must comply with the program, buildings will be required to report their scores to the City of Chicago, but the City will not disclose them publicly.
  • At the close of the second year, individual building scores would be publicly disclosed by the City, although the mechanics of how the disclosure would be available to the public remain unknown.  It will most likely be through a posting on a public website.
  • Exemptions for buildings with less than 12 months of physical occupancy of 50% or more, and for buildings in receivership, foreclosure, etc.
  • Exemptions from the public disclosure requirements for buildings in which 10% or more of the square footage is occupied by a data center, media studio, or trading floor, at least until such time as the Commissioner determines that the Portfolio Manager tool accommodates such uses.

The full text of the ordinance can be found by clicking here.