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Evanston aldermen Monday night gave final approval on a 7-2 vote to an ordinance that will require most owners of buildings larger than 20,000 square feet to report their energy usage to the city.

The approval came after the ordinance was amended to exclude condominium buildings of less than 50,000 square feet from the reporting requirement.

Representatives of smaller, self-managed condo buildings had complained that the ordinance would impose an unreasonable burden on them.

Environmental activists claimed the ordinance would lead to reductions in energy consumption, while property managers said they already have suffricient incentives to cut costs by conserving energy.

While the ordinance requires reporting, it doesn’t contain any mandates to reduce usage.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, waivered about voting for the plan till the very last moment during the roll call Monday.

Holmes said she wished the advocates of the ordinance had mounted an educational campaign to achieve voluntary compliance first, rather than starting with a mandate.

Aldermen Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, and Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, cast the dissenting votes.

Braithwaite said it will be costly for building owners to comply with the reporting requirement and it should have provided incentives to encourage reporting.

Fiske said that when she held a special ward meeting on the issue nobody who turned out was in favor of the ordinance. It will be really tough for some peole to deal with, she added.

But Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, praised the gradual roll-out of the regulations over three years, starting with the largest buildings.

She claimed that communities covering one third of the country’s population already have some form of benchmarking ordinance.

She said she recognized the ordinance may create some inconveniences, but said the inconvenience would be worth it for the environmental benefits.

The first reporting deadline under the new ordinance, for buildings 100,000 square feet or larger, will be next June 30.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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12 Comments

  1. Just more government bureaucracy

    And what happens if the building owners don't report the energy usage?

    This is the first step toweard enforcement and city fines. And the city will hire more employees to regulate and enforce the ordinance. What's the purpose of this ordinance if the data is only collected by the city government?

    Mayoral candidate Mark Tendam voted for the ordinance. I wonder what the other mayoral and aldermen candidates think of the energy ordinance? I am not voting for Tendam.

    This energy ordinance is one more reason that will scare away potential developers and corporations thinking about doing something in Evanston. Developers and corporations should be lining up to relocate or start a project in Evanston because the city of trees is the home of a world class university along Lake Michigan and bordering Chicago, a world class city.

    Another day in the people's republic of Evanston. I already see my property taxes going up again.

    1. Candidate votes

      Al, I agree with you that this is an overreach. And it appears to be one of the few things Brian Miller has supported lately. He joined Tendam in voting yes.

  2. Can we ask the same of single family residences?

    Can we ask the same of single family residences that house families of two or three in 4-5,000+ square feet? Seems equitable to benchmark the usage of large home energy usage. I presume all this will be publically searchable? It is unclear who the "environmental activists" are or what we will do with this reporting.  What are the "environmental benefits" beyond energy  guilt?

    1. Not a well thought out plan
      What does the city plan to do with the data? Is the city putting building owners and residences through unnecessary red tape for nothing? Is there a plan for all this data? How much does this cost the city taxpayers to regulate, collect and report out? I am disappointed in our city leadership, this is not a well thought out plan.

  3. All homes and buildings or

    All homes and buildings or none!  And building management firms have NO incentive to reduce utility costs.  The condo building I'm in has lights in closets on 24/7 and uses janitorial services that leave doors open to external termeratures summer and winter.  No incentive for any of them to deal with this.  And what will happen to the owners and residents since building managers won't feel any pressure.  Maybe you could have the person who designed Dodge Avenue design this one, too.

    1. Re: “the condo building I’m in”

      If it's a condo, you're an owner. If this upsets you, do something about it.

  4. Sigh

    "Melissa Wynne recognized the ordinance may create some inconveniences," (although not for her) and said "the inconvenience would be worth it for the environmental benefits" (which she cannot guarantee). 

    Very courageous, Alderman.

  5. Benchmarking
    To the Utilities Commission goes the credit for leading on the benchmarking initiative, and the commission is grateful for the support of the Environment Board and Citizens for a Greener Evanston. It is true that one-third of the US population resides in over 20 cities that have benchmarking ordinances. These cities are reporting progress in emission reductions and increases in building energy efficiency. By this time next year, Evanston will be able to report to the community on the success of this initiative for the 15 city buildings and 90 private buildings over 100,000-square-feet in gross floor area. Mentoring and training led by the city will be important in achieving success. Already, Evanston has 11 Energy Star buildings scoring 75 percent or higher in energy efficiency of all buildings in their category nationwide. And 120 buildings in Evanston of many types and sizes are now using benchmarking in managing their energy usage.

    1. What about Council and city employees?

      Will the employees of city government [at least Supervisor level and on up] publish their energy audit—i.e. bench mark ?

      You would assume before instituting a policy, they would conduct the experiment on themselves and work out any bugs.  They should have a year(?) worth of results already.

      1. Benchmarking is for Buildings

        As a point of clarification, the benchmarking ordinance applies not to people but to buildings.   In fact the City has been benchmarking their buildings for some time and has reduced their natural gas usage by 25% since 2005. That's real dollar savings for Evanston taxpayers not to mention the environmental benefits.

        In comparison, natural has use by commerical customers in Evanston gone down only 3%, and for residential customers has actuall gone UP 3% (that includes both single and multifamily buildings.)  While some buildings have done a lot to reduce their energy use, there's cleary more progress to me made.

        Sinlge family homes and small (less than 20,000 square feet) condo buildings are excluded from the ordinance but they're still a source of carbon emissions and ripe targets for energy reductions. Conact buildings@greenerevanston.org and we'll set you up with an energy audit.

        Jonathan Nieuwsma, Citizens' Greener Evanston

        1. Condos smaller than 50,000 s.f.

          Actually the ordinance was changed to be less than 50,000 sf for condominiums but rental units are still included. The ordinance was reworked to exempt the common courtyard condominium buildings that have 20-25 units which are often self-managed. 

    2. The 1/3 Lie
      It is patently false that one-third of the U.S. population lives in jurisdictions with benchmarking. The U.S. has a population of approximately 320 million. One-third of 320 million is 106 million. The city of Evanston’s benchmarking web page indicates 15 jurisdictions in the whole U.S. have adopted benchmarking ordinances. If one-third of the U.S. lived under benchmarking, each of those 15 cities would have an average population of over 7 millions — which is just about 1.4 million under NYC’s population. If you contend that 20 jurisdictions have adopted benchmarking, that means the population of each of those jurisdictions is about 5.3 million — which is far greater than the population of America’s second largest city, Los Angeles (about 3.9 million). The numbers just don’t add up at all, and this falsehood was repeated several times during the city council meeting. When I questioned the gentlemen that first perpetuated this lie about his math, he responded that he can lie since Trump does.

      Howard Handler
      Illinois REALTORS

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