CHICAGO — A program to cut energy costs in Chicago buildings is more than doubling in size and scope.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Wednesday that Retrofit Chicago's Commercial Business Initiative was welcoming 18 new structures to the program designed to encourage energy savings.
Emanuel made the announcement at the Shedd Aquarium, the first cultural institution to join the program. Also joining were such Chicago landmarks as the Rookery, the Merchandise Mart and the IBM Building, as well as the Hilton Chicago among eight new hotels.
CBI is expanding from 14 to 32 structures and more than doubling its total area from 14 million square feet to 28.5 million square feet, in part with the help of the Mart, which claims 4.2 million gross square feet.
Emanuel said the city is retrofitting its public buildings to gain long-term energy savings as part of its overall Sustainable Chicago 2015 program, and the CBI is intended to encourage that trend in the private sector.
"You can put both economic growth and job creation and a clean energy policy and a clean environmental policy together," Emanuel said.
CBI helps building administrators network to come up with ways to conserve energy and share them. For instance, Don Bartell, of the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, a charter member of CBI when it launched last June, said he hoped to create a hotel subset within the program and share energy-saving methods such as using steam from the hotel laundry to heat water for the hotel dishwashers.
“This expansion of Retrofit Chicago’s Commercial Buildings Initiative highlights the leadership of commercial building owners, managers and tenants in making Chicago a center of building efficiency and a place where companies are maximizing their ability to compete,” Emanuel said.
“These participants understand that in the modern economic environment, it is critical to operate at maximum efficiency. The commitments that have been made by these 32 organizations will create jobs and foster growth throughout Chicago’s economy, while improving our environment as well.”
CBI builds involvement by promoting the buildings on its website and in newspaper ads.
Participants pledge to cut energy costs from a 2010 base level by 20 percent over five years. It also promotes competition through a Green Office Challenge, an online contest in which companies amass points by implementing energy-saving measures. It claims to have amassed more than 100 participating companies and generated $17 million in savings in 2011 while diverting 43 percent waste from landfills.