The ordinance requires new homes to be wired for electrical applications

The city council has made life easier – and less expensive – for Chicago citizens who want to reduce their carbon footprint by installing electric heaters, dryers and water heaters.

Under the new 2022 Energy Transformation Code, approved on Wednesday, newly built residences will need to be wired and ready for large appliances, saving homeowners, tenants and owners the headache of plugging in extra wiring and adding sockets.

The ordinance also requires some low-rise commercial buildings, many of them warehouses, to be built with roofs capable of supporting solar panels.

“It’s really exciting,” said Grant Ullrich, Deputy Executive Commissioner of the Department of Buildings, who noted that 70% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions are related to buildings and industry.

“In Chicago, much of our solution to global climate change has to do with our housing stock,” Ullrich said.

Buildings, including homes and businesses, but not factories, are responsible for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and experts say the electrification of buildings can play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fatigue while sheltering from the worst effects of climate change.

New York banned natural gas heaters and stoves in new buildings, and Los Angeles passed a ban on most gas appliances in new buildings.

The new Chicago ordinance doesn’t go that far, but it also encourages a shift from natural gas to electricity.

Ullrich said the new Chicago ordinance will bring an additional benefit.

The federal law on reducing inflation, passed in August after many political observers gave up on global climate change legislation, includes $ 1 billion in funding for technical assistance in areas such as improving the building permit process. But cities won’t be eligible to claim that money until they pass a code update that’s at least as stringent as the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code, Ullrich said.

“We will be among the first to do so, so we will be at the forefront of asking for that money,” he said.

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In June, Katie Kaluzny of the Illinois Green Alliance told the Tribune that the new ordinance “puts us on track for what’s minimal for Chicago.”

“Although the fully electric version is not required, one manufacturer thinks about it for a second. He makes you decide if you want to build both infrastructures. In some cases, the gas will still make sense and that transition can happen later, but at least that resident – or that homeowner, or that tenant – would be ready to do it if and when that time came, “Kaluzny said. associate director of the Illinois Green Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes green buildings and sustainability.

Mike Cwienkala, chairman of the board of directors of Chicagoland Associated General Contractors, told the Tribune in June that the ordinance contains “clear steps that the construction industry can and should take to promote a sustainable construction infrastructure.”

He said the ordinance will increase construction costs, but added that the higher costs “should be seen as investments in these projects, because they will help reduce the life cycle costs of buildings and add value to properties.”

The ordinance, an update of the city’s energy efficiency building code, also includes the adoption of the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code. The 2021 code represents an 8.7% reduction in carbon emissions. carbon for residential buildings compared to the 2018 code, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Updated by the International Code Council every three years, the international code sets minimum requirements for energy efficient buildings. Address the costs, energy consumption, use of natural resources and the environmental effects of energy consumption.

nschoenberg@chicagotribune.com

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