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The Windy City is rapidly becoming one of the greenest in the U.S., thanks to its Retrofit Chicago Building Initiative. 14 major commercial buildings have stepped up to the plate to reduce their energy consumption by 20 per cent over the next five years. Through retrofitting and power-saving technologies, the program could potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 30,000 cars off the road, and provide a saving to the companies of $5 million each year. Among the first buildings to commit to energy efficiency were the riverside Sheraton Hotel and AT&T’s downtown office tower.

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One of the country’s major metropolitan cities is about to get a green makeover. “The fact that this is the city that built the first skyscraper, we love that we’re trying to green the skyline,” said chief sustainability officer for the city of Chicago, Karen Weigert. A full 70 per cent of Chicago’s greenhouse gas emissions come from producing the electricity needed to heat, cool, and power businesses and homes. By striving to cut consumption by 20 per cent over the next five years, the city hopes to not only help the climate, but save property owners a lot of money.

The first major company to accept the challenge was AT&T, who is beginning to install energy-saving features in its downtown location. Already, they have seen impressive results with motion detectors for their lights, fan regulators, shutter systems to keep out cold air, lighting schedules, and more efficient bulbs. They expect the upgrades to the 1960’s era building to pay for themselves in three years or less. AT&T plans to duplicate their achievements in their 1,000 corporate and 500 retail buildings across the country as a part of their sustainability plan.

Chicago already leads the nation as #1 in the number of LEED certified buildings and was recently named the most sustainable large community in America by Siemens Sustainable Communities award. As major companies and iconic structures go green, we can expect that the rest of the country will start to look to cities like Chicago as a model for sustainability and economic enlightenment.


Images via Oriez and  Jcrocker on Wikimedia Commons