Chicago snags green city spotlight for second year running

Images via Alan Stark and Michel Curi 

A new study has revealed Chicago to be the greenest city to work in within the U.S for the second consecutive year. About 70 percent of the Windy City’s office spaces are certified for energy efficiency, up from 66 percent last year. Other top cities include San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Each year, the U.S. Commercial Real Estate Services (CBRE Group) surveys buildings in the 30 largest U.S real estate market areas and evaluates the results in collaboration with Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Results depend on the amount of square footage of LEED– or Energy Star-certified commercial buildings constructed within a city.

This year’s records show an extraordinary total of 4,700 green buildings in these 30 areas. The total square footage now accounts for 41 percent of all office spaces. CBRE Senior Vice President David Pogue revealed that green certification has “become a proxy for good building management,” in recent years. “Particularly in the services sector, a lot of their energy use and environmental impact is in the buildings they occupy, so the tenant base is demanding this, and institutional financiers also believe a sustainable building is a better building,” he said.

According to the EPA, commercial buildings account for approximately 19 percent of total energy use in the country. As such, they are often the largest contributors of carbon emissions within cities. To combat this, LEED certification was established by The Green Building Council, which recognizes Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) through evaluation of aspects such as water systems and energy efficiency. Similarly, the EPA’s own Energy Star program focuses on strict performance standards in the energy category.

“So many buildings have become dependent on this as a way of demonstrating quality to investors and corporate tenants,” Pogue added. “It’s going to cause every building to go back and reconsider what their energy use is — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” Chicago is well on its way to reaching its goal of 100 percent renewable energy in city-run properties by 2025. Close competitors include San Francisco, with 64 percent of its office spaces certified as energy-efficient. Also notable is Los Angeles, which has the most Energy Star buildings, 716 in total, compared to Chicago’s 339.

Luciana Pricop / Inhabitat, via Bloomberg