Chicago’s integrated building retrofit program is reducing energy use city-wide by engaging municipal, commercial, and residential buildings.

The USA’s third-largest city is tackling municipal, commercial, and residential building energy use through its comprehensive and engaging Retrofit Chicago program. Through Retrofit One, the city’s municipal effort, 60 public libraries, police stations, community centers, and other public facilities are undergoing comprehensive energy retrofits worth $12.2 million in investments, and resulting in an 18% energy use reduction across more than 455,000 square meters of public buildings. Retrofit Chicago’s Commercial Buildings Initiative celebrates energy leadership of 50 buildings, representing 3.7 million square meters of commercial, institutional, hotel, and higher education space, which have committed to improve energy efficiency by 20% within five years.

Finally, Retrofit Chicago’s Residential Partnership has coordinated among utilities, financiers, and nonprofit partners to retrofit 18,000 residential units, install 128,000 low-flow water fixtures and programmable thermostats, and save residents more than $7 million annually. The Chicago Energy Data Map has also increased residents’ awareness of energy use by providing Chicagoans with access to interactive, block-by-block data on building energy use. Streamlining these three voluntary, sector-specific approaches into a single program has allowed Retrofit Chicago to maintain clear, strong messaging and engage citizens and businesses in the energy efficiency upgrade effort.

42,000 metric tons of CO2 reduced annually through commercial and municipal retrofits

The challenge

With building energy use representing $3 billion in annual costs and 71% of citywide greenhouse gas emissions, increasing cross-sector energy efficiency in the Windy City offers an opportunity to tackle climate change and strengthen the economy.


Economic In addition to annual cross-sector energy cost savings totaling more than $10 million USD, Chicago’s electric utility estimates that efficiency efforts have also delivered more than $350,000 in savings to Chicago’s electricity grid.

Environmental Improving building energy performance addresses Chicago’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, while reduced energy requirements help make renewable energy options more affordable.

Social Municipal energy use reduction strengthens City stewardship of public funds, while residential efforts seek energy cost savings in communities that need them most.  Commercial energy use reduction contributes to better air quality, and cross-sector efficiency investments help to create good, local jobs.

About Chicago

Chicago is the third-most populous city in the United States. With over 2.7 million residents, it is also the most populous city in both the state of Illinois and the Midwestern United States. The Chicago metropolitan area, often referred to as Chicagoland, has nearly 10 million people and is the third-largest in the U.S. The city is an international hub for finance, commerce, industry, technology, telecommunications, transportation and the O’Hare International Airport is the second-busiest airport in the world when measured by aircraft traffic.

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