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Rahm Emanuel promises to make buildings more energy-efficient

Mayor Rahm Emanuel. | Al Podgorski/Sun-Times file

Mayor Rahm Emanuel. | Al Podgorski/Sun-Times file

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Updated: July 12, 2011 4:54PM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed Tuesday to save Chicago taxpayers as much as $5.7 million a year, create 375 jobs and reduce the city’s carbon footprint by making City Hall, the Harold Washington Library and other government buildings more energy-efficient.

“You win on the energy. You win on the jobs. And taxpayers win on the savings. You don’t often get a win, win, win like that,” Emanuel said.

“The savings will be accrued by the taxpayers. The jobs will be accrued by people living in the Chicago area. And we’ll be modernizing buildings that are not energy efficient, be they windows, insulation, caulking” or other retrofits.

Nearly 100 public buildings that together have more than 6.5 million square feet of space would ultimately be retrofitted, at a cost of roughly $40 million, under the program launched Tuesday by City Hall and the Emanuel-chaired Public Building Commission.

Erin Lavin Cabonargi, the commission’s executive director, said the citywide program builds on “success already achieved” at the commission-run Richard J. Daley Center. That’s where an energy audit, followed by conservation measures and other retrofits have shaved $600,000 from annual utility bills.

The broader effort is designed to save as much as $5.7 million — at such energy guzzlers as City Hall, the Harold Washington Library, the 911 center and a number of police and fire stations.

Several elementary and high schools where energy usage currently exceeds the industry standard of $2-per-square foot are also potential targets.

The new program will begin Wednesday with “request-for-qualifications and proposals” from so-called “Energy Service Companies.”

The city will then select companies to perform “investment-grade audits” of the nearly 100 buildings to determine which ones would be retrofitted.

Energy savings “guaranteed” by the service companies would be used to secure private financing.

“Because of the known guarantee, you bond that money,” the mayor said, after chairing his second Public Building Commisson meeting.

“There are different types of proposals that will come forward. Some of them will come from the companies that will put the money forward to do the conversion and then, the energy savings are the way you pay it back.”

The Daley Center audit triggered lighting upgrades, water conservation modifications to public restrooms, new boiler controls and “variable air boxes” for a pair of fan systems serving the building’s first eight floors, among other things.

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