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Evanston’s Utilities Commission presented the concept of an ordinance requiring “energy benchmarking” in all Evanston commercial buildings. The new ordinance would impose “the process of tracking the energy consumed, over time, of an existing building” according to the Utility Board’s presentation at the March 16 City Council meeting. By measuring a building’s energy usage, the City hopes consumption would be reduced, furthering Evanston’s climate action plan.

Under the plan, the City would collect energy usage data and compare usage of various building types. According to the presentation, one goal would be to then “target assistance toward under-performing buildings.” The initiative would act like the miles per gallon stickers on automobiles, according to Utilities Commission Chair Richard Lanyon. Buildings would be compared by size, type, and other characteristics to see how their relative energy usage stacked up.

City ordinances requiring energy benchmarking in existing buildings is not new. According to the presentation, no fewer than 11 U.S. cities, including Chicago, have implemented benchmarking ordinances. All are significantly larger than Evanston.

One possible partner would be Energy Star, whose Portfolio Manager is used by “more than 40% of United States commercial building space” according to the presentation. The product includes a “metrics calculator” that measures energy usage, greenhouse gas emission, and calculates an “Energy Star” score for the building. The Portfolio Manager is free of charge.

The presentation offered a preview of what Evanston property owners can expect in an ordinance that will be coming to Council in the coming months. Characteristics will likely include required submission of 12 months of energy use data to the Portfolio Manager, with submissions for the previous year due by June 1. The City of Evanston would have access to this data through the Portfolio Manager. Requirements would be staggered in for different building types and sizes.

Mr. Lanyon indicated that Utilities Commission members would work with ComEd and Nicor to “develop automates utility access/transfer” permitting easy reporting of energy usage to the City through a web portal.

After implementation the City would “recognize compliance” while providing for “enforcement for non-compliance.” Awards would be given for “energy efficiency improvement.” Commercial buildings, per a chart in the presentation, account for approximately 56% of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions, offering an opportunity for significant improvement.

No draft ordinance has been presented as yet, but Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, after the presentation, said, “I think it’s a wonderful idea and we should do it.” Expect an ordinance requiring energy usage reporting soon.

Watch those Flushes! Toilet-Water Conservation in the Works

By Dirk CumuloThis is an April Fool story.

The City will soon embark on a new water conservation initiative in public and commercial buildings designed to count toilet flushes and encourage reduced water usage. The “if it’s yellow let it mellow” initiative came before an inquisitive Administration and Public Works Committee on Monday, March 24.

 “Toilet flushes account for approximately 61% of water usage during peak evacuation hours,” said Simon G. Riparian, the City’s newly appointed water conservation czar. “When you look at events like the Super Bowl, worldwide flushes during commercial are significant enough that by some estimates, if collected, they could fill up Lake Erie.”

The proposed ordinance would count the flushes in a building on a per occupant basis, limiting aggregate flushes to no more than 1.5 per person per day. New technological advances in modern toilet manufacture have created toilets that can distinguish between a number one and a number two. Until such commodes are installed, however, office workers will have to proceed on the honor system. If allotted flushes are exceeded for a particular day, whatever is deposited must remain – until the next day.

“Understood,” said Alderman Betsy Forest, 10th Ward. “That said, there are real problems with this as a requirement. Sometimes things, you know, bounce back.”

 “You’ll be amazed at the new technology available,” replied Mr. Riparian. “Most modern office toilets come equipped these days with PeeShield or a related splashback guard protecting users from dangerous urine droplets.”

A second part of the ordinance requires the City to pursue recycling toilet water back into toilets rather than sending it straight into the sewer. Users will apparently simply have to get used to a persistent yellowish tint in all toilets at the start rather than the end of the process.

“This is rather like when we moved from five gallon tanks to three, and even 1.5 gallon toilet tanks,” explained Mr. Riparian. “We’ll get used to it – and think of all the water we’ll save!”

“And think of all the water sales we’ll lose,” quipped Ald. Forest.

 The measure moves on to full Council next Wednesday, April 1, 2015. “If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down,” concluded Mr. Riparian.