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City-funded Incentives for Implementing GI in Chicago

Although the benefits of green infrastructure (GI) are well documented, initial costs associated with their installation can be prohibitive to new construction. To overcome these limitations, the city of Chicago has initiated several incentive programs to encourage new businesses to implement GI practices. This includes the Green Building Permits program, funded by the Department of Buildings. During the permitting process for building projects, incentives like expedited permits (<30 day processing period compared to the usual 60 to 90 day processing period) and fee waivers have been established to promote use of GI practices.

The Green Roofs Initiative is another program that offers financial bonuses to developers of new buildings and developments in the form of a “density bonus,” which allows for an increased density of units if 50% or 2,000 square feet (whichever is greater) of a roof is covered with vegetation. Grants of $5,000 are also available to cover costs of green roof installations for small-scale commercial and residential projects. For existing green roof projects in the financial district of Chicago, the city established a Green Roof Improvement Program. The Program offers up to $100,000 of reimbursement if buildings have a vegetated area that covers more than 50% of the net roof area with multi-culture drought tolerant plants. This program also stipulates self-advertisement of green roof project: buildings must have green roofs that are highly visible to surrounding buildings that are maintained according to a minimum two-year maintenance plan! Furthermore, the benefits of stormwater management and urban heat island mitigation provided by the roof must be monitored and reported, so the performance information can be used to promote implementation of future GI projects.

The Green Homes Program allows for fee waivers and expedited processing when private homeowners install green technologies like green roofs, rainwater harvesting, solar panels, solar thermal panels, wind turbine and geothermal systems.

These incentives have already been largely successful in promoting implementation of GI. For example, these incentive programs have led to the installation of >80 green roofs in the city, the installation of >150 green alleys between 2007 and 2009 alone, and the creation of 55 acres of pervious surface and open space across the city.

For more detail on GI incentives, check out the following websites:
Chicago Climate Action Plan (CCAP) website: http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org
Chicago Green Roofs website, http://www.explorechicago.org/city/en/about_the_city/green_chicago/Green_Roofs_.html

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