Energy Benchmarking Ordinance Approved at Cook County Board Meeting

Laura Oakleaf

The Cook County Board of Commissioners approved a Building Energy Benchmarking Ordinance that will continue the County’s advancement of its Green initiatives.

"I believe that Cook County should be a world-class model of sustainability," stated President Preckwinkle. "The passage and implementation of this ordinance is a major step towards realizing our goal."

The Cook County Sustainability Advisory Council Report issued last year found that energy use in buildings accounts for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions in Cook County. The Report calls for an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in County-owned buildings by 2050. The Building Energy Benchmarking Ordinance requires the County to capture baseline data and set accountability measures as it moves towards this goal. An update on the full scope of the County’s sustainability work, including initiatives being undertaken by the Green Leadership Team, is in the final stages of preparation.

Tracking a building’s energy use helps to understand its energy efficiency, and is necessary for effective energy management by identifying opportunities to improve performance and achieve financial benefits. The County will employ the free web-based benchmarking tool, commonly known as “ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager,” developed and maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to track and assess energy and water consumption across an entire portfolio of buildings.

“We’ve seen firsthand the value of benchmarking for Cook County, including overall energy use reduction and savings for taxpayers,” said Anne Evens, CEO of Elevate Energy. “Effective and easy-to-use tools like Portfolio Manager help building owners comply with the ordinance and allow us to interpret results and implement smart energy efficiency improvements. We’re proud to see Cook County leading by example in meeting sustainability goals.” Elevate Energy regularly uses the E.P.A. Portfolio Manager website and since 2007 has performed energy use analysis on more than 43 million square feet of commercial, municipal, and multifamily building stock.

The Benchmarking Ordinance requires the County to lead on energy reporting by tracking annual energy and water use of its buildings larger than 35,000 square feet. The Ordinance also requires an annual report be issued to the President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, after which the report will be available to the public.

Over the next three years, the Ordinance will require the following:

  • August 1, 2014, the County will benchmark buildings over 250,000 square feet for calendar year 2013 energy use.
  • June 1, 2015, the County will benchmark buildings over 35,000 square feet for the previous calendar year.
  • June 1, 2016, benchmarking information must include water usage data.