Report: Chicago’s World-famous Skyline is Crunching Carbon—and Your Town Can too!

Retrofit Chicago Commercial Building Initiative Report Outlines Impressive Results in Year 2 and Best Practices to Help Other Municipalities Develop Similar Programs

CHICAGO (July 18, 2014) – Chicago’s unique partnership to showcase energy efficiency efforts in the city’s biggest buildings is already delivering impressive savings and offers a replicable model for other municipalities according to a new report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Chicago is probably America’s most architecturally aware city, so it is no surprise that the skyline is taking the lead in fighting climate change and giving us more resilient infrastructure,” said NRDC Midwest Director Henry Henderson. “Energy efficiency efforts are helping to turn the works of Daniel Burnham and Mies Van der Rohe into the best looking tool we have to push back on global warming. As our report makes clear, the Retrofit Chicago Commercial Business Initiative is making a huge impact. The results should be the envy of every town in America—and our report shows how they can achieve similar results.”

Dozens of the city’s most recognizable buildings have pledged to reduce their energy consumption by 20% over five years as part of Retrofit Chicago Commercial Buildings. Program participant buildings offer incredible diversity; ranging in age from 3-125 years old and includes cultural institutions, tourist attractions, hotels, university facilities and some of the city’s most iconic office towers designed by architects from Burnham to Van der Rohe. To achieve those goals, buildings get access to incentives and technical expertise from an array of experts including program partners NRDC and ComEd.

And according to NRDC’s evaluation, it is working well, with the participating buildings already cutting energy usage by 7% in less than two years, putting them on target to fulfill their goals. Those savings lead to significant positive impacts, including $2.5 million in annual avoided energy costs and the elimination of over 28,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions (comparable to removing 5800 cars from the road annually).

Given the diversity of buildings, a wide array of tools were put into participating buildings to spur energy reductions, including a shift to more efficient lighting, revamped heating and cooling systems tied to motion detectors, upgraded ventilation systems and HVAC motors, as well as direct work with tenants to improve efficiency in their office spaces. Chicago’s energy efficiency efforts will be further bolstered by the City’s participation in the City Energy Project.

As energy efficiency efforts take center stage in the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions, the Initiative gives Chicago and the State of Illinois a head start in meeting those goals. The NRDC report outlines key learnings from the program and is designed to help other municipalities garner similar results to those being driven by Chicago’s initiative.

The Retrofit Chicago Commercial Building Initiative Best Practices report is available online at

More information on the initiative and a full list of participating buildings can be found at

An infographic detailing the buildings’ achievements is available at

NRDC hosted a telebriefing on the release this morning with speakers from the City of Chicago, ComEd and AT&T to discuss the report and its findings. Audio is available at


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