Formerly known as the Commercial Buildings Initiative, the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge launched inJune 2012 by announcing 14 founding participants' publiccommitment to 20% energy efficiency improvement. The program launch coincided with Chicago's entry into theUS Department of Energy's Better Buildings Challenge, which supports commercial and industrial building efficiency efforts and provides a national platform for collaboration and problem solving.
The program doubled in size in March 2013 with the addition of 18 new participants, and has grown steadily since then, with multiple buildings joining each year. By July 2016 multiple non-commercial buildings joined the program, thus spurring the program’s rebranding from the Commercial Buildings Initiative to the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge.
By providing technical support, access to efficiency incentives through ComEd and Peoples Gas, public recognition, annual awards, and peer-to-peer engagement, the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge is helping achieve tangible economic and environmental results. Participants share best practices among real estate portfolios, and the program has provided a model for cross-city efforts through the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the City Energy Project, the National Resources Defense Council, the Rocky Mountain Institute, and Environmental Defense Fund's Climate Corps Program.
In January 2015, Retrofit Chicago won the Inspiring Efficiency Impact Award through the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, in recognition of participants' achievements and the program's contributions to market transformation.