After the monthly board meeting of the Public Buildings Commission of Chicago, the city's mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the launch of the Guaranteed Energy Performance Contracting program, a new energy efficiency initiative.
The program plans to retrofit as many as 100 of the city's public buildings through upgrades in lighting, mechanical retrofits, and inserting better water conservation technology.
Cumulatively, the initiative will retrofit 6.5 million square feet of office space; as a result, the program is expected to create almost 375 direct jobs and 1,100 manufacturing and related jobs. Once complete, the energy retrofits will save tax payers an estimated $4 million to $5.7 million annually.
The city is planning to raise $40 million in private financing to fund the initiative. Erin Lavin Cabonargi, the Public Buildings Commission's Executive Director says the program builds off the success of the energy retrofit at the Richard J. Daley Center . Energy conserving measures at this public building will save Chicagoans $600,000 annually.
Energy retrofits are seen as one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to reduce carbon emissions. Owners of private commercial buildings are increasingly becoming interested in retrofits as they not only see significant energy savings, but they also see their vacancy rates drop as a result.
In 2009, the owners of Chicago's largest building, the Sears Tower, announced a plan to institute a $350 million energy retrofit  on the building -- the most expensive energy efficiency retrofit ever. The owners say the renovations will reduce their electricity consumption by 80% and their water consumption by 40%.
Pike Research estimates the market for energy efficiency retrofits for U.S. commercial buildings, both public and private, could be $400 billion  in the coming years.
Image credit: Christopher Macsurak  via Flickr