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Green Buildings

Updated: Feb 19

Green buildings are businesses, residential spaces, or community spaces that incorporate sustainable practices in their design and operation. Green buildings incorporate the Triple Bottom Line by addressing the environmental, economic, and social aspects of sustainability. With ⅓ of emissions contributing to climate change coming from buildings, green buildings are a vital step in creating a community that supports a clean environment!


What are the benefits of 'building green'?

The term 'building green' identifies that sustainability is first created in design. Buildings can be designed and built to address the sustainability needs of a local and global environment, which positively affect the economy and communities.

1. Cost Benefits

  • Save money on energy budgets!

  • Green buildings have a higher market value!

  • Potential Tax Incentives

  • The Chicago Department of Buildings offers three funding programs for projects that include green elements, the Green Permit Benefit Tier Program, the Green Permit Program, and the Solar Express Program.

  • EPA Green Building Funding Opportunities Page


2. Community Benefits

In addition to supporting an environmentally sustainable society, green buildings hone in on designing, developing, building, renovating, and operating a building that is the best fit for its community. Green buildings support a local economy, the native plant species of an area, includes affordable housing, and reduces emissions and waste. Green buildings create vibrant communities!


What resources are available to me?

What certifications are available to me?​


Sustainability Regulations for Chicago Buildings

The Sustainable Development Division of Chicago, Chicago Energy Conservation Code, and Chicago Benchmarking Ordinance attempt to improve the city's energy efficiency and balance mandatory sustainability goals, project budgets, and delivery timelines of existing and new buildings.


Chicago Sustainable Development Policy

The city of Chicago has initiated a Sustainable Development Division (SDD) to address sustainability concerns for development projects. In June 2004, The City of Chicago implemented Chicago Sustainable Development Policy and updated this policy in 2016. This policy applies to all building and housing projects in Chicago.


The policy requires projects that are receiving financial assistance or special approvals from the City to include sustainable elements - such as health, energy, stormwater, landscapes, green roofs, water, transportation, solid waste, workforce, and wildlife. The new policy allows developers to choose from a menu of strategies that best fit the project's characteristics.

Projects that are subject to the policy and other details of the policy can be found on this city website.


Chicago Energy Benchmarking Ordinance

  • Since 2013, the Chicago Benchmarking Ordinance has required existing commercial, institutional, and residential buildings larger than 50,000 square feet (4645 square meters) to track and report their whole-building energy usage.

    • This regulation covers less than 1% of Chicago’s buildings by count, but accounts for 20% of total building energy usage in the city.

  • The ordinance’s three requirements for covered buildings

    • Record building properties (size, age, conditioning type, program), monthly energy use via the free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager Web Tool

    • Have energy utility data verified by a third-party professional with an architecture license, engineering license, or other city-approved accreditation

    • Report energy use to the City of Chicago once every three years via the free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager Web Tool


Chicago Energy Conservation Code

  • “Chicago Among First Jurisdictions in Illinois to Implement Latest Version of International Energy Conservation Code” The Code has been in effect since June 1, 2019.

  • The code applies for new commercial and residential constructions and major changes in existing buildings, which include renovations, alterations, additions and reparations. This requirement helps protect the environment and reduce energy consumption by providing guidelines for reducing air pollution, moderating energy demand and stabilizing energy costs for electric, oil, and gas supplies.

  • The next update to the Chicago Energy Conservation Code in 2022 will apply the as-yet-unpublished 2021 IECC – an official international code that recognizes the need for a modern conservation code – as its basis.

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