Ald. Hairston seeks to avoid new high-rise bill

Staff Writer

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) wants to exempt residential buildings from an ordinance that would require all very large buildings to make their energy consumption data public.

The ordinance, which passed City Council last month, currently requires all buildings more than 50,000 square feet to publicly report their energy use data and have that data officially verified.

The City of Chicago Finance Committee passed the amendment by voice vote on Friday. It goes before the full city council next.

Hairston filed an amendment to the ordinance that, if it passes City Council, would remove the requirement for residential buildings to comply with the ordinance.

Many of the city’s high rises are located along the lakeshore and Hairston said they are burdened enough by fees and fines that smaller buildings are not subjected to. This ordinance would disproportionately affect the lake-adjacent wards, she said.

“Because [high rises] have just and continued to be barraged with fees and fines and they’re the only ones in the city that’s bearing that responsibility. It’s disproportionate on people that live in high rises,” Hairston said.

She cited fines for façade maintenance, life safety evaluation and even garbage pickup.

The stated intention of the ordinance is to make the energy use data for the city’s largest buildings publicly available so that other managers of equally large buildings can compare.

Currently there is no language that would require buildings lower their overall energy use. It does require that every building have its data verified by a trained professional, a process that could cost in the thousands of dollars.

“While we want to move towards energy efficiency, now is not the economical climate to do so,” Hairston said. “Particularly when a lot of people in the high rises that I’ve heard from are retirees and there are a lot of unsure Chicago Public School teachers [living in high rises].”

Alds. Brendan Reilly (42nd), Bob Fioretti (2nd), Pat Dowell (3rd), James Cappleman (46th), John Arena (45th), Thomas Tunney (44th), Michele Smith (43rd), Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Harry Osterman (48th) all signed on as supporters.