Energy Benchmarking Part 1: What Every Chicago Condo Association Should Know

Posted on Thursday February 16, 2017

Energy benchmarking isn’t just something that’s good for your condominium association to do. If your building is located in Chicago, it’s also mandatory.
 
This article examines the Chicago energy benchmarking requirements and what you need to do to be in compliance. In Part 2 of this two-part series, we’ll show you some ways you can make your building more energy efficient and save thousands of dollars.
 
In 2013, the Chicago Energy Benchmarking ordinance was adopted to make information about the energy performance of buildings more transparent and encourage greater energy efficiency. The ordinance also supported the Sustainable Chicago 2015 action agenda for making the city more livable, sustainable and competitive.
 
Requirements of the Ordinance
The ordinance applies to municipal, commercial and residential buildings over 50,000 square feet. The city has been phasing in compliance requirements since the new law went into effect, adding residential buildings larger than 250,000 square feet – including condos – in 2015. Residential buildings between 50,000 and 250,000 square feet were added in 2016.
 
To meet compliance requirements, your condominium must do three things:
 
  • Benchmark your energy use annually. Use the free Portfolio Manager energy measurement and tracking tool from ENERGY STAR. Portfolio Manager allows you to look at your energy performance and compare it to similar buildings.
  • Verify your data every three years. In the first year and every three years thereafter, you must have either an in-house or a third-party professional verify that you are tracking and reporting information correctly. You can find a list of the types of licenses and training program credentials that the city recognizes for verifiers on the Chicago Energy Benchmarking Instructions & Guidance Materials website. Portfolio Manager automatically generates an “ENERGY STAR Data Verification Checklist” that the professional can sign. Your board or your community manager needs to keep this form on file and produce it upon request by the city.
  • Report your data to the city annually. By June 1 of each year, you are required to provide the city with basic data about your building’s energy use. This information is also generated using Portfolio Manager. After a one-year grace period after your first benchmarking deadline, the city can make some of this information available on its website.
 
Neglecting to fulfill these requirements can result in a fine of up to $100 for the first violation and $25 for each day that the violation continues.
 
How to Get Assistance
The city of Chicago provides a variety of resources to help you, including forms, a Help Center and free trainings. Information is available on the Chicago Energy Benchmarking website. An experienced condominium management company can also help ensure that your association is doing everything correctly to comply with the ordinance. Ideally, the company should have in-house experts capable of compiling your data and providing an overview of how your condominium stands relative to other similar properties. In addition, it should be able to provide you with a specialist who has the appropriate credentials to verify your data, as well as recommend ways to improve your energy efficiency.
 
Recommendations
The 2016 Chicago Energy Benchmarking Report indicated that reporting buildings had performed better than the previous year. However, with up to 25 percent of the energy in buildings going to waste, there is still room for significant improvement. The report makes the following recommendations, which your condo association can already begin to put into practice:
 
  1. Review your results. Compare them to other buildings in your area, as well as with similar properties nationally.
  2. Understand your energy use. Look at how your energy use varies month to month and year to year. If you haven’t done so in a few years, conduct an energy audit. Your condo management company may be able to do this for you.
  3. Get training on ways you can save energy. Both the city of Chicago and your management company can provide workshops and seminars to your board members, residents and staff.
  4. Make a commitment to energy savings. The Chicago ordinance does not require you to spend money on your building’s energy efficiency. However, your condo association could reap significant savings by investing in improvements. Join the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge and the city will also reward you with technical support, access to utility incentives and recognition and awards.
 
Find out how the right condo management company can help you save energy and money and meet your benchmarking requirements. Contact FirstService Residential, the leading condominium management company in the Chicagoland area.
 

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