On Dec. 17, the City of Chicago published its first assessment of energy consumed by the largest commercial and municipal buildings throughout the city. The report found that the city could reduce its energy consumption by up to 23 percent, saving as much as $77 million annually and generating more than 1,000 jobs.

Under the Chicago Building Energy Use Benchmarking Ordinance, which was adopted in Sept. 2013, all commercial and municipal buildings of more than 250,000 square feet were required to report energy-use information to the city by June. Chicago, which participates in the City Energy Project—an initiative to improve building performance in 10 U.S. cities—achieved a compliance rate of more than 90 percent. Of approximately 350 reporting buildings, 254 were included in the final report, eliminating data from buildings that were early reporters and those that had incomplete or erroneous reports.

The median Energy Star score for Chicago’s reporting buildings was 78 out of 100, which is well above the national average of 50. Chicago’s score compares to the median scores of comparable buildings in other major U.S. cities—New York (75), Philadelphia (77), and Washington, D.C. (81)—based on publicly available information from these cities.

The report highlights that a reduction in energy intensity, or energy used per square foot, by the reporting buildings could decrease each of the structures’ energy use by up to 23 percent. These reductions could, in turn, lead to between $44 million and $77 million in energy-cost savings.

Focusing on building performance could also reap economic benefits. The investments needed to reach these energy goals could generate more than 1,000 jobs in such roles as installing  energy-efficiency upgrades in buildings.

The next reporting deadline in the benchmarking ordinance requires all commercial and municipal buildings from 50,000 to 250,000 square feet, as well as multifamily buildings over 250,000 square feet, to verify and report their energy use by June 1. Nonresidential buildings reporting in 2014 (measuring at least 250,000 square feet) are required to benchmark and report by June 1, but are not required to verify information again until 2017.

Check out Denver’s City Energy Project, which aims to cut energy use by 20 percent and carbon emissions by 18 percent by 2020, saving up to $1.3 billion in energy costs over a decade.

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