Chicago’s Cooling Ordinance
Chicago’s Cooling Ordinance

In June 2022, Chicago took a significant step to ensure its residents can beat the summer heat. The City Council passed a Chicago Cooling Ordinance, which mandates air conditioning in common gathering spaces within certain residential buildings. Here are the main takeaways:

1. Ordinance Overview:

  • New and existing residential buildings in Chicago must have air conditioning in indoor common gathering spaces.
  • These spaces must serve as cooling centers for residents when the outdoor heat index surpasses 80°F.
  • Temporary air conditioning equipment can be used until April 30, 2024. By May 1, 2024, buildings must have permanent AC systems installed.

2. Which Buildings Must Comply? The ordinance targets:

  • High-rises over 80 feet tall.
  • Buildings with more than 100 residential units.
  • Buildings classified as housing for older individuals (typically intended for residents aged 55 and above).

3. Where Should AC Be Installed?

  • For most buildings, AC is needed in at least one indoor common gathering space accessible to all residents without charge.
  • In buildings categorized as “housing for older persons,” all indoor common gathering areas must have AC.
  • Examples of these spaces include meeting rooms, fitness centers, and some lobbies or laundry rooms.

4. Equipment Specifications:

  • The cooling solutions must be actual air conditioners that provide both cooling and dehumidification. Fans or evaporative coolers won’t suffice.
  • ACs must be able to switch between heating and cooling within an hour, if applicable.
  • Temporary or portable air conditioning solutions can be used until April 30, 2024.
  • Permanent ACs should maintain an indoor temperature of 75ºF and 50% humidity at 3 feet above the floor during specific outdoor conditions.

5. Permits and Contractors:

  • Installing new permanent AC systems necessitates a permit from the Department of Buildings.
  • Work should be conducted by a licensed contractor in Chicago, with separate provisions for electrical work.

6. Operating Requirements:

  • Air conditioned spaces should be available and operational for residents when the Chicago heat index exceeds 80ºF. Factors like sun exposure, air speed, and relative humidity also influence safe indoor conditions.

To ensure your building’s compliance and further explore cooling strategies, consult the guidelines provided by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Stay cool, Chicago!


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