Chicago proposing transparency on buildings' energy use

Chicago lawmakers have proposed a new city ordinance that would make the energy consumption of buildings public knowledge, as part of a goal to reduce energy use in half of the city's buildings by 30 percent over the next seven years.

But, according to The Chicago Tribune, this proposal has been met with resistance by the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago (BOMA), which has expressed worry that this kind of transparency – which would allow for energy efficiency comparisons between buildings – would be used to shame older buildings that are already having a difficult time of securing tenants. This is particularly worrisome for owners of historic buildings, who are legally prohibited from installing greener retrofits because renovations are against city landmark rules.

To accommodate this, BOMA – whose members own 80 percent of rentable living space in downtown Chicago – has suggested making the information only available to "interested parties," like renters, buyers and other financiers with expressed interests in the property.

Green advocates argue that something has to be done, though. According to the Tribune, Chicago buildings consume 70 percent of the city's energy, and that's even after sustainability campaigns have tried to implement widespread energy-efficient fixtures and equipment. Particular urgency has been placed on buildings over 50,000 square feet, which account for 1 percent of city building stock but use 22 percent of allocated energy.

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