Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, has become the first Midwestern town to ban fossil fuels, like natural gas, in new homes and commercial buildings.
Oak Park’s electrification ordinance goes into effect January 2024 and states, “On June 20, 2023, the Village Board of Oak Park, Illinois voted in favor of an all-electric new construction ordinance as part of their building code. This makes Oak Park the first municipality in Illinois – and the Midwest – to pass an electrification ordinance. Electrification was one of the steps identified as necessary to achieve community-wide net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as set forth by the Village in Climate Ready Oak Park. This follows the adoption of a benchmarking ordinance approved in February 2023.”
Exceptions are in place for commercial kitchens and emergency generators.
Nationally, buildings contribute about 13% of greenhouse gas emissions. In Oak Park, buildings are the largest contributor — 70% — of the village’s emissions. Chief sustainability officer Marcella Bondie Keenan said reducing that number will be critical in reaching the village’s climate targets.
Bondie Keenan added that the path to approving the ordinance was a long one, informed by the village’s Climate Ready Oak Park plan, community engagement meetings and conversations with electricity provider ComEd.
“Reducing (fossil fuels), especially natural gas, used by buildings is going to be one of the key strategies to help us get to our climate goals,” she said. “We want to get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but we also really want to slash our emissions by 60% by 2030.”
The new requirements for residential homes include:
- The source of energy for the building shall be all electric and the source of energy shall not be fossil fuels. Energy from fossil fuels may be provided by generators for emergency backup power.
- All heating and air conditioning shall be provided by cold climate air source or ground source heat pumps.
- A building shall contain an energy recovery ventilation system.
- A building design shall include Manuals J and S calculations, or an equivalent design, by a licensed design professional.
- All refrigerators, dishwashers and clothes washers shall be Energy Star certified.
- Energy for any clothes dryer shall be provided by an electric heat pump.
- A building shall contain at least one level 2 electric vehicle charging station at one parking location if a building contains a parking space/garage.
- Directly piped exterior gas fire pits and gas cooking grills whose source of energy are fossil fuels are prohibited.
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