Building owners in Chicago with space greater than 50,000 square feet will now have to start tracking their energy use after the Chicago City Council passed the Chicago Energy use Benchmarking Ordinance yesterday. As previously reported, the ordinance requires 3,500 commercial, residential, and municipal buildings to monitor and report their energy use via the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Portfolio Manager tool. The ordinance also authorizes the city to publicly disclose the buildings' efficiency starting in June 2015. The passage of the ordinance makes Chicago the ninth U.S. city to require energy benchmarking of this scale.

According to analysis by the Institute for Market Transformation,the largest buildings will be required to comply by June 2014, while smaller buildings will be required to comply by 2015. In addition, residential buildings have an extra year to comply.

Under the ordinance, energy use will be tracked by Portfolio Manager and reported to the city through an automated process. Building owners will be required to have their data verified every three years by a licensed architect, engineer, or other professional recognized by the city, and the city will publish an annual report on energy efficiency. The ordinance excludes industrial facilities, storage units, and hazardous use units, and contains exemptions for new construction and buildings facing financial distress, as well as for buildings with more than 10 percent of floor space dedicated to data centers, TV studios, or trading floors.

A number of organizations supported the ordinance and congratulated the city on its passage. In an Op-Ed in Crain's Chicago Business, Rebecca Stanfield, deputy director for Midwest policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote that energy efficiency encouraged by the ordinance will unleash economic benefits for the city. "Locked up in Chicago's buildings is an enormous well of potential for saving money, creating jobs and reducing pollution through cost-effective energy efficiency improvements," she wrote, noting that "Unleashing this potential could be worth billions of dollars in benefits in Chicago alone." The ordinance, she continued, should help building owners better understand how their building systems are operating.

Click here for the official release from Mayor Emanuel's office.