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Evanston officials, hoping to join Chicago in requiring owners of large buildings to report their energy usage, plan to make owners of proportionately several times as many buildings file such reports.

Chicago has chosen to limit the benchmarking requirement to buildings greater than 50,000 square feet in size. Officials there say that represents less than one percent of the total number of buildings in the city but will track 20 percent of total energy usage.

Evanston’s plan would sweep buildngs as small as 20,000 square feet into the reporting regime.

Kumar Jensen, Evanston’s environmental project coordinator, says he doesn’t have figures on the total number of buildings in Evanston. That makes it impossible to directly calculate the percentage of buildings that will be required to report here.

Kumar Jensen.

But Chicago, with a population 36 times larger than Evanston, will only require five times as many buildings to report their energy consumption data.

Jensen says the city chose 20,000 square feet as the reporting threshold to match the scope of the city’s Green Building ordinance, which requires energy efficiency standards for new construction and major remodeling projects.

The proposed benchmarking ordinance is scheduled for review by the City Council on Monday, Nov. 28.

Jensen says that so far in a series meetings with building owners who would be covered by the plan, most concerns have come from representatives of smaller, self-managed condo buildings who feared it would be burdensome to comply and could be a breach of their residents’ privacy.

He says the meetings drew virtually no feedback from owners of commercial or rental apartment buildings.


Update 4:30 p.m. 11/21/16: City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz this afternoon announced that at the request of Mayor Tisdahl the energy benchmarking ordinance agenda item has been postponed from the Monday, Nov. 28, City Council meeting to the Monday, Dec. 12, meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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13 Comments

  1. Energy Benchmarking

    As someone who was at the meeting, Mr. Jensen is incorrect in a few of his statements.  First, there were representatives of larger condo and retail buildings, including myself( representing a building well over 100,000 square feet.  There was not one person in the room who was in favor of this proposal and spoke very strongly regarding the "big brotherism" of the city.  In addition, Mr. Jensen was not prepared for many of the questions and it appears that the city was not as prepared as well as it should be.  Our building has spent $100's of thousands of dollars on energy efficient measures( converting from electric to gas, energy efficient lighting,etc) and we are already way ahead of the curve.  To many of us,it seems like the city just wants to use this as a "shaming" mechanism in addition to getting another commendation for the wall.  If the city is really interested, than individual home owners should also be included as in many instances, they use more energy than others.  I think the city can find better and more important things to concentrate on!

  2. Is this Wally creating a new

    Is this Wally creating a new department that he can be paid more to manage, as with his assistant city managers?  New department is what's happening with 311.  Submit a request for significant information, and the department reports "mission accomplished" under a code number for the request so the caller can't follow what it's for if more than one request was submitted.  Do you keep count of the number of 311 requests where the caller reports that he/she didn't get an answer?  That would show the city council the failure of that operation.

    Is this ulility monitoring setup another sham?  First, selective buildings.  What about the rest of the city, including homes of council members and homes of realtors?  Be sure to betray real estate firms managing the buildings selected; they have a role in this as they once did in red lining.  And finding all these errant buildings isn't going to do anything for inadequately lighted sidewalks for night safety.  There's a useful issue to address.

  3. Citizens’ Greener Evanston Supports Benchmarking

    On behalf of the more than 1,800 members of Citizens’ Greener Evanston I want to express the support of our organization for the Energy and Water Use Benchmarking Ordinance (Ordinance 33-O-16) and urge its adoption by the City Council.

    The benchmarking ordinance is an easy and low cost means of reducing energy use and lowering our carbon emissions, a goal that the City Council has twice unanimously endorsed, first in 2008 when a 13% carbon reduction goal was established and again in 2014 when the bar was raised to 20%.  The benchmarking ordinance will be recognized within the STAR Community Rating System as another step Evanston is taking to create a livable community.

    Benchmarking is common.  Facing national policies over the next four years which portend to be a huge step backwards in transition to a clean energy economy, taking action on a local level is vitally important.  A community such as Evanston should be a leader in climate action, though in this case we’re only playing catch up.  A number of other cities around the country have already implemented similar ordinances: Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Berkeley, Boulder, Kansas City, Austin, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York City, Boston, and Cambridge.

    Benchmarking is effective.  Energy use benchmarking in these other cities has proven to be an effective tool, with an average energy savings of 7% over three years.  

    Benchmarking is easy.  The compliance burden on building owners is minimal—it only takes a few minutes a year to enter the appropriate data.   Only whole-building data is required; getting that aggregated data from ComEd and Nicor is straightforward.

    Benchmarking allows apples-to-apples comparisons.  Building owners will benefit by being able to compare their energy use to other similar building around the country.  Such a comparison is not possible if owners are only paying attention to their own bills.   Buildings that are already ahead of the curve in efficiency improvements (thanks, by the way!) will be able to demonstrate the added value of that capital expense.

    Benchmarking is not an invasion of privacy.  The ordinance requires the reporting of energy use by entire buildings, not individual units.   Improving the efficiency of single family homes is also important (CGE is working on that too) but focusing on larger building offers the best opportunity for significant reductions.

    Benchmarking is widely supported.  A number of building owners in Evanston are already benchmarking:  the University, School District 65, the Rotary Building, and many others–including all City buildings.

    Please contact info@greenerevanston.com if you’d like more information.  The City’s FAQ is also very helpful.

    Citizens’ Greener Evanston fully supports adoption of the benchmarking ordinance and looks forward to working with the City to ensure its effective implementation.

    Respectfully,

    Jonathan Nieuwsma

    President, Citizens’ Greener Evanston

    http://www.greenerevanston.org

    1. Benchmarking

      I agree with the comments from Jonathan Nieuwsma.  Energy Benchmarking has been in place in Chicago for a number of years now, and the concerns noted in the first email are not evidient.  It is not about shaming anyone.  It is about providing more information to make better decisions on buidling performance and carbon reduction.  

      Nathan Kipnis, FAIA

      Founding Member of Citizens' Greener Evanston

    2. What are the vote numbers

      What are the vote numbers with this outfit?  Reporting calls for a city-wide vote, as does almost anything that affects so many people, is such an invasion of privacy, and has no identified voter support.  Look at all the babble-speak Citizens' Greener uses to suppport its insignificant standing.

    3. Clarifying Some Points

      I want to take a moment and address some of the points made:

      === Benchmarking is common.   A community such as Evanston should be a leader in climate action, though in this case we’re only playing catch up. ===

      Out of nearly 20,000 municipalities in the United States, only around 20 (or .001 percent) have adopted a similar ordinance.  Evanston is clearly not playing catch-up.

      === Energy use benchmarking in these other cities has proven to be an effective tool, with an average energy savings of 7% over three years. ===

      As Harvard University Professor Robert N. Stavins who leads Harvard’s Environmental Economics Program and the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements (and is a supporter of reducing greenhouse gasses) states: “I have heard references to an EPA study that some people claim shows the effectiveness of building labeling programs. I have reviewed the EPA studies. They demonstrate nothing about the likely effectiveness of a mandatory building labeling program. In brief, the EPA studies look at participants in the voluntary Energy Star Portfolio program, and thus focus on those who already are most pre-disposed to be interested in energy efficiency. This is called “self-selection bias.” One of the studies then goes on to focus even more narrowly on those buildings that received the Energy Star certification (the top 25% compared with national baseline). And then the study finds – of course – that the Energy Star certified buildings perform better than a national average of all buildings. This is fine, but clearly it proves nothing: just the self-selection bias, and the top-25 percent.”

      = = = Benchmarking is easy.  The compliance burden on building owners is minimal—it only takes a few minutes a year to enter the appropriate data.   Only whole-building data is required; getting that aggregated data from ComEd and Nicor is straightforward. = = =

      Benchmarking will certainly take more than few minutes per year, and will also requiring training.  And getting aggregated data is not as straightforward as you state – the ordinance in fact requires property owner/managers to seek the data from individual unit owners and tenants.  There is a financial penalty if one does not seek non-aggregated data.

      = = = Benchmarking is not an invasion of privacy.  The ordinance requires the reporting of energy use by entire buildings, not individual units.  ===

      Benchmarking is certainly an invasion of privacy.  The ordinance will take what is currently considered private information and make it publicly available.  This data may impact property values, and may stigmatize properties, particularly older, historical properties.  If it is not an invasion of privacy, would you support extending this ordinance to all Evanston properties, including single-family homes?

      === Benchmarking is widely supported.  A number of building owners in Evanston are already benchmarking:  ===

      Benchmarking may certainly be valuable.  And if it is all benefits and it is already widely supported in the property management industry, where is the market failure to mandate this, use city resources to execute and enforce the mandate, and publicly share the data?  And won’t more and more buildings just adopt this practice on their own over time?  What efforts has the city or Citizens’ Greener Evanston conducted to educate the properties that are not already practicing energy benchmarking instead of immediately jumping to a mandate with public disclosure?   

      Howard Handler
      Government Affairs Director
      North Shore – Barrington Association of REALTORS

  4. It won’t be long now

    How long until every household will be monitored for energy and water use?  It seems that no matter how much this measure is opposed it keeps popping back up. Until energy and water is free mind your own business.

    1. Information for us all to save $ and energy

      Benchmarking allows all the properties to see how other buildings save money and energy, and allows them to lower their costs as well.  It is so easy to input the information, and empowers all the users to save.  

  5. energy benchmarking support

    First, I applaud the first commenter's building's investments made in energy efficiency. Your building will undoubtedly gain from this long term investment.

    I support the benchmarking ordinance both for buildings and for individual homes. In fact, homeowners are already benchmarked and reports from the utilities are sent periodically comparing energy usage to a masked set of neighbors. The structure of the ordinance helps protect individuals' privacy and provides a method to compare energy usage. Many buildings are inefficient, which can be very costly. The spirit of the ordinance is to inform and motivate (via reference points) to improve efficiency, reduce usage, and ultimately reduce operating cost.

  6. Yes to Benchmarking

    Many people have commented on the positive attributes of benchmarking.

    I agree.

    Benchmarking provides a framework to understand how one organization or entity is performing relative to others. Benchmarking provides information and context for how resources are being used and may provide insight into how to improve.

    Evanston City government AND Evanston Schools (both D202 and D65) should be encouraged, and in some cases citizens should demand that benchmarking be used.

    We can tell people how great we are but until and unless we have information and analysis to show the results, it's just boastful rhetoric.

    Evanston can do better. Let's Benchmark (and do it sensibly)

    TP

    1. Benchmarking does have potential positive beneifts.

      Benchmarking, as you state, likely does have positive attributes. 

      And you make a point that the city of Evanston and both Evanston school districts should be required to benchmark.  That may make sense — they are public bodies "owned" by the citizens of Evanston, and the data they disclose is likely public anyways by way of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.  But it is a giant leap to go from requiring public, taxpayer funded institutions to release already public data, to requiring private property owners to be trained in software, use a software program, hire a third party consultant to verify the data, and then publicly release someone's private data.

      Moreover, you state that "unless we have information and analysis to show the results, it's just boastful rhetoric,"  It is questionable why you state you do not have information and analysis to show the results, and instead are just asking private property owners to make a leap of faith.  Perhaps advocates would get farther with property owners if they had something besides "boastful rhetoric."

      Howard Handler
      Government Affairs Director
      North Shore – Barrington Assoc. of REALTORS   

  7. City and school benchmark results ?

    What has the benchmarking [if already done] shown city and school building [by buillding] pre- and post-benchmarking ? How much savings in units [dollars is fine but with oil/gas price declines and suppliers changing rates does not tell the whole story].

    If the city/school buildings have not been benchmarking for at least six months, they studied the results and made adjustments, it would sound like another one of the "ready, fire, aim" policies.  I.e. they would not even know if it worked or was just another pass a law because it sounds politically correct.

    You'd assume the Council, city manager and all city department supervisors and up, would have been required to do this for their homes, so  they have a real idea if it works.

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