It comes as no surprise that President Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has committed his city to the Administration’s Better Buildings Challenge. By joining the national initiative, Chicago is publicly announcing their commitment to cut energy consumption by at least 20 percent by upgrading 10 million square feet of city-owned buildings and 14 million square feet of privately owned real estate by 2017.
Last year, Chicago was recognized with the 2011 ASLA Honor Award for Planning & Policy for their “Adding to Green Urban Design” plan. This plan, which presents a detailed implementations strategy for Chicago to achieve an economically and environmentally sustainable urban design, was written to provide direction to the Chicago City Council in overseeing urban design and to the Chicago Plan Commission in assessing individual development projects. It’s also expected to assist the Chicago City council in making tough choices about public investment and improving Chicago’s built environment.
In addition to creating the “Adding To Green Urban Design” plan, the city also put in place a Chicago Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF). The SBIF is a local initiative that allocates dollars to building improvements involving windows, floors, roofs, heating and air conditioning systems, and other upgrades to Tax Increment Financing Districts (TIF). At the completion of an approved project, recipients can receive up to $150,000 in the form of a grant, which doesn’t have to be repaid. More than $1.5 million has already been allocated for these kinds of projects.
Revamping the City’s recycling will play a role in Mayor Emanuel’s Better Building Challenge goals. The City has already saved $2.2 million in recycling service costs and starting next year, Chicago will roll out blue cart recycling services to the 340,000 remaining households that don’t currently receive recycling services. Since July, Chicago’s recycling crews have closed the difference between private recycling company’s $2.70 price per cart by reducing their costs by 35 percent from $4.77 to $3.28 per cart.
Last year, President Obama announced the Better Buildings Challenge to stimulate private sector investments in energy efficiency projects for commercial and industrial buildings. The initiative’s goal is to also help create skilled-labor that specializes in green building practices while cutting emissions, utility bills and growing new business opportunities. Since the announcement, more than 60 organizations have signed up to participate in the challenge. The United States spends almost $200 billion a year in building energy consumption costs. That’s 40% of the total energy consumption for the whole country. If we spend the next 10 years making facilities 20% more energy efficient, then a projected savings of $40 billion will be realized for local governments and businesses.