Is Chicago Warming Up To Sustainable Efficiency In Response To Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge?

Retrofit Chicago program is a component of the city’s inter-sector efforts towards improvement in energy performance in the area of commercial, municipal, residential and institutional buildings. All participants who pledge to the Retrofit Chicago Energy challenge commit to abide by:

  • Cut down energy usage by a minimum of 20% within the first 5 years of enrolling into the program
  • Play the role as an ambassador for other buildings which wish to take up such an initiative.
  • Sharing and tracking energy efficient developments via the Energy Star portfolio management

As a result of the widespread acceptance of this program, buildings across the city are turning to increasing value of the asset, bringing down cost of production, increasing local job market and cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions.

The current statistics stands at 76 participants covering over 51.3 million square feet, inching closer to the goal of 80 participants

Leading By Example

The Rookery Building

One of the oldest members in the Jewel of Chicago’s skyline is the Rookery building. Standing tall at 209 South LaSalle Street, Rookery Building has been a participating member since 2013. Designed by the celebrated architect Daniel Burnham and John Root in 1888, the design of the lobby was envisioned by Frank Lloyd Wright and covers over 300,000 square feet, this building is historically significant. Rookery building is situated in the heart of Chicago’s financial district.

Being as old as it is, Rookery Building has had its share of retro-commissioning via the ComEd’s program. The engineering team decided to take it up to the next level by modifying the cooling and heating intake system to improve efficiency. These tweaks lead to a reduction in energy cost by 24 percent. Such a steep reduction and improvement in energy efficiency puts Rookery Building in the coveted Leadership Circle.

AT&T Building

Communication Mughals, AT&T has sided with Retrofit energy Challenge in Chicago. Constructed in 1968, the operations office of AT&T covers overs 100,000 square feet housing 30 stories of office spaces. Located at 225 W Randolf Street, the former Illinois Bell, has been occupied by AT&T since completion of construction. An initial saving initiative led to the application of films and improvement in the efficiency of the water system, back in 2011. Further efficiency in energy was achieved when the Corporate Real Estate team identified all the interior lighting and changed them to the latest energy saving standard. Also, older irreplaceable technology was modified to improve energy efficiency.

A key component which transformed the building was the installation of motion sensitive light. These lights save energy by remaining dim throughout the day and brightening post-dusk when it detects foot traffic. Such a small change increased energy savings by 60-65 percent. Also, the air conditioning system is programmed in such a way that it is turned on only when the employee’s presence is detected and automatically shuts off when the office closes. AT&T excelled and exceeded the goals of the Challenge in 2016 and is now the member of the Mayor’s Leadership Circle to provide motivation and feedback to other participating members.

Other buildings and facilities which are close to reaching the target are the Inland Steel Building at 23% energy expenditure reduction, Fifth Third Center by 21%, and finally the School of Arts Institute Chicago by 33%.

Back in 2014, the Retrofit Energy Challenge was awarded the Inspiring Efficiency Impact Award by the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. Such recognitions attract other buildings within the city and throughout Midwest to participate in energy efficiency challenges. Chicago leads the way towards sustainable, energy-efficient architecture.