The Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge encourages, promotes, and celebrates voluntary energy efficiency leadership. Together, participating building owners, facility managers, engineers, technical advisors, industry groups, and policy makers are demonstrating that energy efficiency is a winning proposition for Chicago’s real estate industry as well as the environment.

About the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge

The Energy Challenge is one of three components of a broader Retrofit Chicago program, the City of Chicago's cross-sector effort to improve energy performance across municipal, commercial, institutional and residential buildings throughout the city. In joining the program, Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge participants commit to:

• Reduce energy use by at least 20% within five years of joining the program

• Track and share energy efficiency progress through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager

• Serve as an ambassador to other buildings interested in saving energy

Through these efforts, Chicago's leading buildings are reducing operating costs, increasing asset value, creating good local jobs, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Currently, the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge includes more than 60 building participants spanning more than 44 million square feet, with a goal to expand to 80 building participants.


Formerly known as the Commercial Buildings Initiative, the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge launched in June 2012, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel and US Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced 14 founding participants' public commitment to 20% energy efficiency improvement. The program launch coincided with Chicago's entry into the US 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 16 additional buildings joined in July 2014 – including 10 universities. In December 2014, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon joined Mayor Emanuel to announce the program’s 50th participant, while highlighting the role of cities in addressing global climate change by improving energy efficiency in buildings.

In July 2016 an additional 12 properties joined the program, including the first multifamily condominium building, the first house of worship, and the first faith-based nonprofit organization, 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. Please click here to view a recorded webinar celebrating this award.

The Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge would not be possible without deep collaboration among the City of Chicago, local and national energy partners, and expert technical advisors.Please click here to learn about our sponsors and partners.