Send us your articles!
Please email any articles or topics that you think we should feature to Editor@ChicagoCodes.com.
By Clarence P. Denning
Pay any attention to green building trends and you’ll hear an oft-cited number: 40%. That’s the share of U.S. energy consumption taken by buildings. The picture is bigger than that, however, and little of it is rosy.
In 1980, buildings accounted for not quite 33%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Back then, the energy-intensive industry sector accounted for more at over 41%. By 2010, those figures had nearly swapped; industry had shrunk to under 31% while buildings now consumed over 41%.
Residential buildings have always accounted for a larger portion than commercial buildings, but the latter have grown much faster over that time period. Residential structures grew from 20.1% of the total U.S. energy portfolio in 1980 to 22.5%. Over those thirty years, commercial buildings grew from 13.5% to 18.6%. The DOE predicts that to jump to 20% by 2035. In a dense, urban area like Chicago, structures account for about 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, with nearly 40% coming from commercial buildings.
Clearly, steps need to be taken to abate this growth. In 2009, the City of Chicago created a program to address commercial energy use, in coordination with Local Governments for Sustainability (known as ICLEI after their former title, International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives).
The Green Office Challenge is a friendly competition among office tenants to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The Challenge not only offers an opportunity for Chicago businesses and property managers to gain recognition for their green achievements, they can save energy, save money and gain a competitive advantage in green innovations.
More than 100 property owners and office tenants participated in the first year, including Jones Lang LaSalle, the Merchandise Mart, Transwestern Corporation, Office Depot and Microsoft. Office tenants are evaluated through a “green office scorecard” based on 50 green strategies that are related to five key office-related sectors: waste, energy, transportation, outreach and tenant engagement. Property managers can implement behavioral changes and capital improvements to reach those goals, and all are encouraged to use Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager to track the data.
Nearly 150 property managers and tenant companies located in Chicago’s downtown business district took part in the Green Office Challenge last year. Combined, they saved $17.5 million in energy costs and reduced energy use by 124 million kWh, the equivalent to the energy used by 45,000 homes. These efforts averted the emission of more than 85,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
“Chicago’s efforts in sustainability have created economic opportunity throughout our neighborhoods and dramatically improved the overall quality of life for residents,” said Mayor Emanuel. “The Green Office Challenge is a great example of the private sector working with government to reduce costs and create jobs while protecting the environment.”
Participants worked to set and achieve specific green goals, supported primarily through monthly training events, use of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and other tools. It is because of these efforts, for example, that participants were able to divert 43% of their waste from landfills.
Round three, which launched in February, is a collaboration between the city and various partners, including non-profit Delta Institute, technology start-up GreenPoint Partners and sponsor Office Depot. This round will run through 2013 and suggests activities that employees and building managers can undertake to green their business practices. The competition has previously been focused on office buildings and tenants in the Loop, but this round will expand to those not just in the central business district but across the city and even the suburbs.
Mayor Emanuel’s environmental action agenda, Sustainable Chicago 2015, sets a target of doubling participation and impact in round three, as part of a larger goal to accelerate the economy through sustainability.
Aside from opening up the program to the full extent of the Chicago area, the key to the future success of this version is competition. “In Chicago, we like to compete and we like to win. And we love to win on sustainability,” said Karen Weigert, the city’s Chief Sustainability Officer, at the February launch party. “We want Chicago to be the most sustainable, competitive, livable city in the world.”
Last summer, ICLEI released the Green Business Challenge App, a customizable web application that now allows any municipality to launch a friendly competition among its business community to save money, energy, water and waste. Based on the success of Chicago’s Green Business Challenge, nearly a dozen cities and counties have also launched similar programs, including Houston, Charleston and Arlington County.
Houston Green Office Challenge participants reduced energy use by 28 million kilowatt hours, water use by 74 million gallons, and diverted 40% of their waste from landfills, in addition to many other achievements like adding bicycle parking, implementing flex time and telecommuting policies. The secret to the Green Business Challenge program’s success is twofold: fun and friendly competition, and media recognition for the businesses’ green achievements.
The web app allows any local government to launch a Green Business Challenge program in weeks, not months, and to administer it with fewer staff and less money. Participants access the app through the local government’s website, and use it to register, take a baseline survey, browse a library of tips and resources, update their achievements, view a scorecard that tracks their progress toward goals, read customized suggestions for ways to increase their score and operate a carbon calculator. Program administrators can use the tool to customize the program, view reports on participants’ progress and maintain engagement with mass emails.
By a vote of 41-7, city aldermen and the City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to attract private money for public-works projects, tossing aside concerns from some aldermen that there’s not enough oversight.
Chicagoans would be free to live and work in the same place thanks to a zoning change to fill vacant storefronts and return the city to its roots.
“It’s how Chicago was built,” said Alderman Joe Moreno (1st). “Family in the back. Store in the front”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has insisted that his plan to bring speed cameras to Chicago is aimed at improving safety around schools and parks. However, several aldermen are questioning whether the camera push is really more about creating a new revenue stream for City Hall and benefitting some of Emanuel’s political allies.
The original plan called for 79 Chicago intersections that already have red light cameras and fall within school and park “safety zones” to be retrofitted to accommodate for the speed camera. In the wake of aldermanic controversy, Emanuel scaled back the proposed hours cameras would operate around schools in hopes of winning aldermanic support.
He originally proposed speed cameras would run on school days between 6 a.m. and 8:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and until 9 p.m. on Friday. His amended proposal would cut back those hours to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., as well as create a panel that would include aldermen who would decide where cameras should go.
Speed cameras would operate in park safety zones during hours when parks are open, typically 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.Last fall, mayoral aides said the 79 intersections with red light cameras would take priority for speed camera installation because their red light cameras could be modified to also measure vehicles’ speed at a relatively low cost.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the creation of the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, an innovative way to leverage private investment for transformative infrastructure projects. Mayor Emanuel was joined at the announcement by President Bill Clinton, who has been helping strengthen the country’s infrastructure for decades, most recently through the Clinton Foundation’s work with large cities like Chicago on energy efficiency initiatives.
“Nothing is more crucial to our long-term competitiveness and job creation than infrastructure,” Mayor Emanuel said. “The Chicago Infrastructure Trust will bring additional resources to stimulate public and private investment in our infrastructure, create thousands of jobs for Chicagoans and ensure that our residents have a world-class quality of life.”
Chicago’s vacation rental license, which was largely ignored and difficult to enforce, has been eliminated. In April, Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a consolidation that would reduce the number of business licenses by 60 percent to save retailers money and frustration. The vacation rental license was one of dozens targeted for elimination.
Emanuel’s plan to reduce the number of business licenses would wipe out plans to license and regulate condominiums into hotel suites.
By Matt Baker
The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) recently announced that it is seeking a developer to design, construct and maintain a new solar power generation installation on the grounds of O’Hare International Airport. Development will occur over two phases with an expected completion by 2016.
In an effort to combat the latest drug fad, Chicago will go after bars, gas stations and other businesses that sell synthetic stimulants disguised as bath salts that mirror the effects of cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamines. Read More…
Chicago’s landmarks ordinance got a lift Wednesday when a Cook County judge dismissed claims that the law is unconstitutionally vague. Judge Sophia Hall sided with the city, frustrating a six-year campaign by landmarking opponents to nullify two landmark districts on the city’s north side.
Historic preservationists were also sustained by the decision, even as they brace for the next round of litigation. “We are pleased, but of course we expect it to be appealed,” said Jean Follett, Executive Director of Landmarks Illinois, an advocacy organization. “It seems like a strong ruling.”
The Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago (BOMA/Chicago) announced the winners of “The Outstanding Building of the Year” (TOBY) Awards at an awards gala over the weekend. The TOBY Awards are designed to recognize excellence in office building management across several categories based on building size and type. The buildings were judged on tenant relations, commitment to environmental sustainability, emergency preparedness, budgeting, work order systems, security standards, staff experience and continuing education opportunities.