Secretary Chu joined Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to announce the city’s participation in the Better Buildings Challenge. | Photo by Brooke Collins.

Its nickname might be the Second City, but Chicago is hoping to become one of the first U.S. cities to achieve the energy efficiency standards set forth by President Obama’s Better Buildings Initiative by 2020.

Today, Secretary Chu joined Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to announce the city’s participation in the challenge -- which aims to make America’s commercial and industrial buildings at least 20 percent more efficient over the next decade. The initiative was launched last year to support job creation by promoting investment in commercial and industrial building energy upgrades.  

Right now, the energy used to operate buildings where we work, shop, and go to school costs about $200 billion every year, and last year consumed more than 40 percent of all the energy used by the U.S. economy. On average, 30 percent of this energy is wasted through inefficient design, materials, equipment and operations. By uniting corporations, universities, and municipalities to make significant commitments to energy efficiency, we can save billions in energy costs while creating jobs and reducing waste.

As a partner in this national leadership initiative, Chicago is committing to reduce building energy use by 20 percent in 24 million square feet within the next five years. This commitment stems from a citywide program called Retrofit Chicago, and extends the program to commercial buildings. Today the Mayor announced that 14 buildings (totaling almost 14 million square feet) have already signed on to join Retrofit Chicago’s Commercial Buildings Initiative, which will save more than $5 million a year in energy costs. 

The Better Buildings Challenge is part of the Obama Administration's comprehensive strategy to reduce energy costs in buildings while boosting American competitiveness in the global clean energy race. For more information, visit the Better Buildings Challenge website.