Will Chicago's Building Code Speed Decarbonization?

Energy efficient building code updates are often done with the best intentions but how do we know if the changes are actually helping?

"The Chicago Energy Transformation Code, ...includes requirements that residential buildings are built with the wiring and electricity capacity in place to enable a switch to electric-powered appliances and that roofs on low-rise commercial buildings like warehouses are designed to accommodate the installation of solar panels."

There are several other updates, some of which include incentivizes the installation of smart heating, cooling and hot water equipment that is integrated with the electric power grid to reduce demand during peak usage.

The amended code requires builders to install the wiring for future electric appliances even if they’re currently outfitting the residence with fossil fuel-powered appliances. An estimated 80% of Chicago households rely on natural gas.

The answer for Chicago is likely yes, it will work. However, this is mostly due to how Chicago generates power with over 58% of it coming from carbon-free nuclear power. As for other states it depends on how the electricity is generated with natural gas, the number one source, and coal still in heavy use. 


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