The Final Review

Burnham’s Blog

The Final Review shares the knowledge of Burnham’s experts in building permit expediting and code compliance. Learn about different jurisdictional building permit requirements, and stay up-to-date on the Americans with Disabilities Act and local accessibility standards. Follow the latest in sustainability, including building energy codes and sustainability design developments.

Groundbreaking California Law to Reduce Construction Materials’ Carbon Footprint

Dec 6, 2017 10:00:00 AM

California’s Governor Brown signed into law the California Buy Clean Act, AB 262, on October 15, 2017. The manufacture and processing of many construction materials is a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The progressive new California mandate requires state authorities to only award state infrastructure contracts to construction contractors using low-carbon emitting versions of designated materials. Cement, the largest contributor of construction materials GHG emissions, is noticeably absent from the new law. Hopefully, as the California Buy Clean Act is implemented and the GHG limitations for construction materials become customary, there will be greater openness to also setting emission limits for cement.


The Building Industry’s Link to Climate Change: Northwestern’s 2017 Symposium

Nov 21, 2017 9:30:00 AM

Northwestern University’s Institute for Sustainability and Energy has sponsored the Northwestern Climate Change Symposium since 2009. The two-day 2017 symposium (November 9-10) had three simultaneous tracks: policy, science, and business. We attended both days and focused on the policy track. The presentations we are highlighting here touched on the building sector’s role in climate change and ways the industry could proactively reduce carbon dioxide emissions.


Chicago Energy Benchmarking: New Disclosure Requirements

Oct 31, 2017 10:30:00 AM

The Chicago City Council passed amendments (Amendments) to Chicago’s energy benchmarking requirements, the Building Energy Use Benchmarking Ordinance of the City of Chicago (Chicago Energy Benchmarking Ordinance) on November 21, 2017.These changes were introduced in Chicago City Council on October 11, 2017. The Amendments add a new rating system, disclosure requirements, and water use reporting to the ordinance that was originally passed in September 2013 and applies to commercial, municipal, and residential buildings that are 50,000 square feet or more.


Trump’s Deregulation Efforts: How’s it Going?

Oct 17, 2017 10:00:00 AM

President Trump is finding that rolling back regulations is not so easy. Deregulation is a Trump administration priority, and the President’s first day in office his Chief of Staff notified agencies of a temporary freeze on all new regulations. This was followed by series of executive orders focused on cutting regulations, including the Executive Order, known as the Two-for-One Executive Order, requiring the repeal of at least two prior regulations and an incremental cost of zero for each newly adopted regulation. We have highlighted in several posts how Trump’s deregulation agenda may impact the building industry, and we thought we would review the status of this effort.


New York City Takes Bold Steps to Meet Paris Climate Agreement Goals

Oct 4, 2017 8:00:00 AM

New York City Mayor de Blasio is following through on his commitment to adopt the Paris Climate Agreement targets. The Mayor announced on September 14, 2017, a progressive proposal requiring New York City’s existing buildings to undertake significant reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions. If the Mayor’s plan becomes law, it will move New York City to the forefront of United States cities pushing for improved building energy efficiency and use.


Urban Farming: Benefits and Zoning Challenges

Sep 28, 2017 8:00:00 AM

 While often deemed a new trend, the history of agriculture in urban setting is both ancient and modern. Changing attitudes towards agriculture in cities based on space, place, and time have caused a shift in production to rural areas. However, as sustainability and resiliency become more important in urbanism discussions, this divide has started to change. The revival of urban farming in the United States highlights some of the new perspectives on urban agriculture along with some of the inherent challenges in bringing farming to the city.

image credit: Markus Spiske


Los Angeles’ New Comprehensive Energy Benchmarking Program is Under Way

Sep 19, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Los Angeles joins an expanding list of major American cities that require buildings to conduct energy benchmarking. The ambitious City of Los Angeles Existing Buildings Energy and Water Efficiency Program (EBEWE Program) went into effect this year and is particularly progressive because it requires auditing and retro-commissioning in addition to benchmarking.


Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge Promotes Sustainable Savings

Aug 29, 2017 8:00:00 AM

The Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge (the Challenge), formerly known as the Commercial Buildings Initiative, promotes energy efficiency and sustainable solutions through voluntary participation by City of Chicago building owners, managers, engineers, and others involved in the real estate and management industries. Part of the greater Retrofit Chicago efficiency program, the Challenge continues to provide building owners and managers with strategies and incentives for greener buildings.

image credit: Sawyer Bentson via Unsplash


Urbanism Strategies for Walkable and Resilient Cities

Aug 22, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Across the country, cities of all sizes grapple with balancing planning for sustainable and resilient futures, preserving historic character, and meeting increased demands for walkable neighborhoods, easy access to transportation, and continuing interest in urban living. Strategies for addressing housing shortages, the need for affordable housing, and resilient and sustainable development vary from municipality to municipality and in this post, we’ll be highlighting some of the ways U.S. cities have been addressing the changing needs of their residents and population growth.

 image credit: Andrew Gook


Resilience Strategies in Chicago and Beyond: CMAP’s Comprehensive Plan

Aug 3, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Chicago and other cities across the globe are undertaking resilience planning to respond to climate change and other stresses on our communities. In 2016, Chicago’s first Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), Aaron Koch, was appointed. The CRO’s office is currently working on Chicago’s Resilience Strategy, projected to be released in the fall of 2017. However, important resilience planning affecting Chicago is also being conducted by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) as part of their comprehensive plan. It is important to be aware of CMAP’s planning process and resilience recommendations because they will shape future decisions about building design, land use, and infrastructure.


Promoting Energy Efficiency: the Better Buildings Initiative

Jul 18, 2017 8:00:00 AM

The federal Better Buildings Initiative helps foster greater energy efficiency by using public and private sector partnerships to develop supportive programs and encourage innovation. At this time of concern over the elimination of key programs and standards that promote energy efficiency, it is important to recognize how much has been accomplished by existing federal programs such as the Better Buildings Initiative.


Improving Health and Well-Being: the Well Building Standard

Jun 6, 2017 8:00:00 AM

There is an increasing focus in recent years on the impact of buildings on health and well-being. Several important new studies have shown the significance of designing and constructing healthier buildings. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that green buildings can be good for health in addition to improving sustainability. Building standards have also emerged, such as the Well Building Standard and Fitwel, that specifically address the well-being of a building’s occupants.


Critical Revisions to the Chicago Sustainable Development Policy

May 16, 2017 8:00:00 AM

The Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) recently revised the Chicago Sustainable Development Policy (Policy). The Policy has been a key component of the City’s plans to encourage sustainable and resilient design.The new Chicago Sustainable Development Policy is significantly changed from its earlier version and will continue to push the City’s leadership in sustainability.


Designing a Resilient City of the Future: Chicago Thrives!

May 3, 2017 8:00:00 AM

On April 20, 2017, U.S. Green Building Council-Illinois and American Institute of Architects-Chicago jointly sponsored Chicago Thrives! Resilience Symposium. As stated in the program’s marketing materials, “resilient design is emerging as the design challenge of our age.” The all-day program included a variety of presenters on different resiliency planning topics. Burnham attended the event and we will share some program highlights.


DOE Halts Critical Energy Efficiency Standards

Apr 25, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Since his inauguration, President Trump’s administration has taken steps that prevent new energy efficiency standards, including those that affect products and equipment used in the building industry. The potential elimination of the ENERGY STAR program, a key program for promoting energy efficiency, has received a lot of press. We want to point out that other energy efficiency standards and programs are also at risk despite the fact that energy efficiency makes good economic sense in addition to benefiting the environment.


Key Steps to Support Battery Energy Storage System Adoption in NYC

Apr 18, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Burnham attended the NYC Solar Installers Workshop held on March 1, 2017. Battery energy storage systems were a major focus of the Sustainable CUNY of the City University of New York organized workshop, particularly fire safety concerns relating to batteries. Although there has been significant progress in removing obstacles to energy storage system deployment in in New York City, fire safety issues need to be fully understood and protocols developed to allow for an efficient battery installation process. 


What is the Future of ENERGY STAR and Energy Efficiency?

Apr 4, 2017 8:00:00 AM

The ENERGY STAR program, critical to energy efficiency gains, is in jeopardy. The program is one of the environmental and energy programs slated to be eliminated under President Trump’s 2018 Budget proposal. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the 25-year-old voluntary program has saved Americans billions of dollars in utility costs. Although most people are familiar with ENERGY STAR products, there are other critical components of ENERGY STAR that will also be lost if the program is eliminated.


San Francisco’s New Transportation Program Imposes Developer Requirements

Mar 7, 2017 8:00:00 AM

On February 17, 2017, San Francisco’s Mayor Lee approved the city’s progressive Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Program. The TDM is designed to promote sustainability by requiring building developers to provide on-site amenities and incentives that encourage the use of public transportation and other alternatives to driving. It is critical for developers to understand the TDM Program’s requirements.


Update on Progressive California Energy Benchmarking Law

Feb 15, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Energy benchmarking is being adopted by a growing number of cities. Now, California will have the first statewide energy benchmarking program for both commercial and multi-family residential buildings. The legislation mandating the California program, California Assembly Bill 802 (AB 802), was passed in 2015. The California Energy Commission (Commission) is currently developing the rules that will implement California’s energy benchmarking program.


University’s Innovative Approach to Resiliency: IIT’s Microgrid

Jan 20, 2017 8:00:00 AM

The Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), a private research university in Chicago, is at the forefront of microgrid development. There is growing interest in microgrids as an emerging way to help build more resilient communities. IIT’s microgrid serves as an important model and testing ground for initiatives around the country incorporating microgrids into urban planning. We recently received a tour of the IIT microgrid.