Chicago adopts building energy code to support decarbonization

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Chicago Construction News staff writer

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Chicago City Council has approved the 2022 Chicago Energy Transformation Code, requiring new buildings to be constructed with stronger energy efficiency and electrification standards to promote decarbonization.

Most changes will apply to new building permit applications starting Nov. 1.

Chicago’s new Energy Code will also exceed the 2021 IECC baseline and requires:

  • placement of windows in new buildings to minimize energy demands due to solar heat gain in summer
  • new low-rise commercial buildings, such as warehouses, to be designed so roofs can support the future installation of solar panels
  • new residences with gas-fired appliances to be built with the electrical capacity and wiring necessary to switch to electric appliances in the future without opening walls or upgrading the electrical service
  • improved insulation to reduce heat loss through the exterior walls of buildings with projecting balconies or parapets

Regulations incentivize the use of smart heating, cooling, and hot water equipment that is integrated with the electric grid to reduce demand during peak usage, require indoor plant-growing facilities to use energy-efficient lighting and prohibits new decorative gas lighting.

“The Department of Buildings looks forward to working with our partners in the design and construction industry to successfully implement these critical changes,” said Department of Buildings Commissioner Matthew Beaudet.

Chicago’s new Energy Code will recognize two rigorous building certification programs as alternative ways to comply: the 2021 Phius standard and the gold and emerald certification levels under the 2020 National Green Building Standard (NGBS).

Updates focus on decarbonization goals in Chicago’s climate action plan, targeting reductions in carbon emissions by 62% from 2017 levels by 2040. Currently, buildings produce 69% of the city’s total emissions, staff reported.

Council also committed recently to requiring 100% renewable energy for all city-owned facilities by 2025.

“The City of Chicago has long been a leader in adopting requirements for energy efficiency and sustainable design,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “Our buildings are major contributors to Chicago’s carbon footprint, so it’s critical that every construction and renovation project increases the efficiency and sustainability of our building stock as part of Chicago’s commitment to combat climate change.”

Additionally, by being among the first to adopt requirements based on the 2021 IECC, Lightfoot said the city will be at the front of the line to apply for $1 billion in federal financial assistance – money appropriated in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act.

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