President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge is all about catalyzing investment in commercial and industrial building energy upgrades and supporting new jobs in the process. We’ve seen Seattle, Los Angeles and Atlanta rise to that challenge, and now the president’s old buddy Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced that Chicago will do so as well. This asserts the city’s commitment to reduce its energy use by 20 percent across nearly 24 million square feet of public and private building space within the next five years.
To meet the terms of the president’s challenge, Chicago plans to upgrade 10 million square feet of City-owned buildings and nearly 14 million square feet of privately owned buildings that have already signed on to partner with the City on energy efficient retrofits and technologies. The idea here — as in the widely publicized energy efficient retrofit of New York’s Empire State Building — is that models and best practices can emerge through these projects that will form a road map that other commercial building owners and managers can follow in reducing their energy costs.
Emanuel made the announcement at an event on June 5, with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu in attendance. Chu had this to say about Chicago stepping up to the Better Buildings Challenge: “By joining the Better Buildings Challenge, Chicago is not only leading by example, but is also better positioning the city in the global economy by saving millions in energy costs.”
About those costs: according to the DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy division, the energy used to operate the buildings in which we work, shop, and study costs the U.S. around $200 billion on an annual basis. By cutting energy costs by 20 percent over the next decade, the country’s businesses and local governments stand to save more than $40 billion. (Of course, such measures would also take a good-sized bite out our carbon footprint as nation, and most likely avoid the need for a signficant number of coal-fired electricity plants.)
More information on the Obama Administration’s Better Buildings Challenge is available online.