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Building Baselines: Katie Kaluzny

Katie Kaluzny, Deputy Director, Illinois Green Alliance

Katie Kaluzny is the Deputy Director for Illinois Green Alliance and has been involved in local Chicago and statewide efforts in efficiency and green energy for close to two decades. Illinois Green Alliance is an organization working to advance high performance buildings that give people better, brighter, healthier places to live, work, and learn.” 

Through her work with Illinois Green Alliance and the communities it serves, Katie is very familiar with energy benchmarking and building data in the state, and deeply understands the greater impact these efforts have on the local community.  

Calico Energy invited Katie to sit down and share her thoughts on building benchmarking, BEPS policies, and to imagine what the future may hold for these initiatives.  

What is Illinois Green Alliance?

Illinois Green Alliance is a member-driven nonprofit founded as a chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council – all the way back in 2002. We were founded by volunteers and have developed substantially since our inception over 20 years ago. I personally joined the organization in 2008 after working for the Chicago Department of Environment and the Chicago Center for Green Technology. Our mission is to advance and develop clean communities and energy efficient buildings – and we believe that a crucial element of achieving those goals is to benchmark building data. 

What does building benchmarking mean to you?

I like to say that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” When it comes to building data, benchmarking is the first step of any energy efficient or retrofit measure. It allows us to track the history of our building’s performance, its utility data, and where we stack up against other similar-sized buildings. What results is an ability to prioritize future projects and planning.  

What building benchmarking also allows organizations to do is learn. Historically, the maintenance of building energy data has been left to an individual or two, who approached the task as something that had to be accomplished to avoid being fined, essentially a compliance measure. Now, though, benchmarking is teaching entire teams of people about their own buildings – things they didn’t know prior and probably would have never learned. Not only is the practice beneficial to the environment and communities, but it’s an educator for those who live or work inside the buildings themselves.  

Are there any cities that are considered “best in class” when it comes to benchmarking?

I think there are cities considered leaders in the field, some for the simple reason they started earlier. For example, Chicago certainly wasn’t the first city to pass an ordinance. In fact, I think they were the ninth city to do so. New York and Washington DC are the two cities that started earlier on, and as a result, cities like Chicago learned from the things that the leaders did well and didn’t do so well.  

Additionally, each city, state, and region have their own difficulties and challenges to navigate. In the Midwest, not every city has a way to get aggregated data from their utility, which is a crucial element of being able to benchmark data. Ultimately, it’s tough to compare region to region because the contributing factors vary to such a large degree.  

Where do you think this world of benchmarking will go?

There are numerous doors that benchmarking building data opens. One such door that I find interesting and potentially massively impactful is the implementation of next step interventions. Benchmarking tells you how you’re performing in the moment, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you what you need to do to be better.  

As a result, my mind goes to the need for a service that would offer various solutions using benchmarking data as a framework. Offering potential solutions for building managers would in a way close the sustainable loop that benchmarking starts. 

How does equity, regarding multifamily housing, play a role in all of this?

Healthy and effective communication is imperative when dealing with multifamily building owners. Often, we see a real desire to implement benchmarking, but a hurdle in understanding how to do it. It’s important for us to make it abundantly clear that help and support exists. We did a multifamily data jam where we basically hosted a question and answer solely for multifamily buildings. Doing things like this both educates and builds trust with the building owners, which only proves to be a positive down the line.

It’s always a pleasure to sit down with Katie Kaluzny and “talk shop.” In this conversation, Katie explains the transformative potential of benchmarking in guiding strategic decisions for building performance and in fostering education and awareness among stakeholders. Her vision for the future underscores the importance of leveraging benchmarking data to drive actionable interventions and promote equitable access to sustainable practices, particularly in multifamily housing sectors.  

Thank you, Katie!  

(Save the Date) Getting to Zero Summit + Limelight Gala

Illinois Green Alliance is a membership-driven nonprofit that works to promote green buildings and sustainable communities. We believe that green infrastructure is key to strengthening neighborhoods and improving the quality of life for everyone.


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