Chicago Investing in Commercial, Residential Efficiency Upgrades

Chicago has added commitment to its energy efficient buildings initiative that includes investing in upgrades to apartment buildings throughout the city

What Happened?

Chicago has added another commitment to its energy efficient buildings initiative that includes investing in upgrades to apartment buildings throughout the city. Chicago already has 50 commercial buildings participating in the effort to cut emissions and boost sustainability.


Adding on to its already growing commercial buildings initiative, Chicago recently announced a joint partnership with Elevate Energy to implement comprehensive energy efficiency upgrades in electric heated apartment units and households across the city over the next three years. The Retrofit Chicago Residential Partnership brings together nonprofits, utility partners and local government agencies to offer upgrades and products that will:
  • Significantly lower electric bills
  • Improve the comfort of the housing units
  • Reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions

After receiving additional funding for the citywide energy efficiency upgrades, Chicago added residential units to the strategy. The upgrades and installations are projected to cost $1.6 million over a 36-month period, while reducing total net electricity usage by 4.503 gigawatts.

Thus far, more than 15,000 in-depth upgrades have been completed, and more than 100,000 households have received free efficiency products. To meet growing demands for free assessments and direct installation of energy efficient products into the buildings, the city will enjoy job growth for the ongoing the project.

Retrofit Chicago

The Retrofit Chicago Commercial Buildings Initiative is an ongoing project focused on retrofitting commercial properties throughout the city to increase energy efficiency and reduce costs and carbon emissions. The goal of the program is to cut energy use by 20 percent within 5 years while developing sustainable building practices for long-term savings and efficiency.

Within the first 18 months of the project, 27 of the 32 buildings reduced weather-normalized source energy use by 7 percent and received over $2 million in utility incentives to participate in the program. The city is reporting more than 21 million kWh reduced annually translating to more than $1.5million in savings.

The retrofit initiative is part of a larger, national Better Buildings Initiative launched by the U.S. Department of Energy. It is estimated that about 30 percent of all energy consumed in commercial buildings is wasted with inefficient materials and operations. In Chicago, the city will continually retrofit commercial buildings with cutting-edge energy efficiency technology while creating jobs and reducing waste. To date, the city has reported 50 buildings already participating in the program, totaling 39 million square feet.

San Francisco Financing

Similarly, San Francisco is launching a much anticipated Property Assessed Clean Energy ( PACE ) program designed to help property owners secure 100 percent financing from an investor to make energy efficiency upgrades to structures. To repay the cost of the upgrade, a small fee will be added to their property tax bill each year.

Owners of commercial and multi-family properties with five or more units can apply for the program, which aims to:

  • Reduce operating costs
  • Improve occupant comfort
  • Protect against rising utility costs
  • Mitigate exposure to regulations
  • Lower carbon emissions
  • Increase property values

Because the financing rates are lower and terms are longer, many projects can be cash flow positive within a year.

Building Green

EfficientGov has reported on a variety of building and housing projects focused on sustainable development and green infrastructure .

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