My Kind of Town: Chicago Goes Green

By Lara R. Jackson, Chicago-based syndicated writer

Green Space Today
Mayor Daley on top of Chicago City Hall's rooftop garden. A green roof was installed on the roof of Chicago's City Hall in 2000 after Mayor Daley took a trip to Germany and observed the use of rooftop gardens to manage storm-water and reduce urban heat island effect.  The green roof on Chicago's City hall is also home to many birds and insects as well as two Italian honeybee hives.
Courtesy of Brooke Collins, City of Chicago

During the past several years Chicago has seen its presence rise in the worldwide green movement.  In addition to having the greatest amount of green roofs in the US, Chicago has appeared on many “top green cities” lists.  The EarthLab Foundation’s list of top green cities named Chicago as the greenest city in the country.  The EarthLab Foundation’s list was compiled from over one million users who calculated their carbon footprint on the foundation’s website.  In Popular Science’s February 8, 2008 issue, Chicago ranked number nine out of fifty greenest US cities.  Other accolades include placing first in the “Nations in Bloom” competition in 2003.  Also in 2003, Chicago was awarded the “Great Gardeners Award” by the American Horticulture Society.  Furthermore, Chicago was ranked by Business Facilities magazine as the number one green city.  The key reason for these listed awards and accolades is Chicago’s comprehensive approach to sustainability. 

Green Space Today
On June 2, 2007, Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chief Environmental Officer Sadhu Johnston (far right) announced that the city is expanding its successful Rain Barrel Program by making 4,000 barrels available to Chicago residents at the discounted price of $40 a piece.
Courtesy of the City of Chicago

Civic leadership and community support is behind Chicago’s green movement.  In 2006, the City of Chicago adopted the Environmental Action Agenda, which set the course for continued environmental improvement throughout the city.  The Action Agenda has committed Chicago to reduce its use of natural resources, invest in greener buildings, vehicles, materials, and save tax payer dollars via the use of smart energy use and resource conservation, and improve the overall quality of life in the city.  In Green Space Today’s interview with Sadhu Johnston, LEED AP, Chief Environmental Officer, City of Chicago, Johnston said, “One of the most exciting things in my career is to work for Mayor Daley who has been a leader of sustainability before it was mainstream.  We have a huge opportunity to create green collar jobs in Chicago.” 

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley told Green Space Today, “Early in my administration, I made a commitment to enhance our environment and make Chicago the most environmentally friendly city in the nation.  When I became Mayor, “climate change” wasn’t on the radar for most cities, states and nations around the world – or even for most people.  But I believed then and believe even more deeply today that when you do such things as planting trees and creating open space, when you invest resources to remove pollution from the air and encourage construction of buildings that are smart for the environment, then you enhance quality of life for all the residents of the city.”

Through civic leadership, the City of Chicago has implemented many green initiatives such as the Green Hotels Initiative, which challenges hotels to obtain Green Seal certification, an environmental lodging standard with requirements in waste minimization, energy efficiency, water conservation, waste water management, and green procurement.  The Department of Construction and Permits’ Green Permit Program has also created the Chicago Standard, which steers the design, construction, renovation, operation, and maintenance of municipal facilities in a manner that provides healthier indoor environments, reduces operating costs, and saves energy and resources.  Certain fundamentals of U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (that were determined reasonable and appropriate for Chicago) were incorporated into the Chicago Standard.  The adoption of the Chicago Standard, among other key reasons, has resulted in a large presence of LEED certified buildings, which save approximately 15 to 20 percent in energy costs annually.  Even though the Chicago Standard was originally developed for municipal facilities, it can be used as a guide for any construction or renovation project – public or private. 

Green Space Today
Chicago Center for Green Technology, Chicago, IL
Courtesy of the City of Chicago

Green Space Today
Chicago Center for Green Technology, Chicago, IL
Courtesy of the City of Chicago

Some public facilities that showcase Chicago’s environmental stewardship include the Chicago Center for Green Technology and the North Exelon Pavilions in Millennium Park.  Located at 445 North Sacramento Blvd., the Chicago Center for Green Technology utilizes superior standards of green technology.  Built during the 1950s, the building was renovated and received a LEED Platinum rating in 2003; a 2003 American Institute of Architects Top Ten Green Building Award; and a 2003 Chicago Building Congress Green Building Award.  The North Exelon Pavilions in Millennium Park, which house the Millennium Park Welcome Center, Chicago Shop at Millennium Park, and administrative offices, are covered in solar panels that produce enough electricity to power 14 to 16 energy efficient houses in Chicago (annually).

Green Space Today
(L to R): Daniel Murphy, P.E., LEED AP, Senior VP; Raj P. Gupta, P.E., LEED AP, President; Kurt Karnatz, P.E., LEED AP, Executive Vice President; and Mehdi Jalayerian, P.E., LEED AP, Senior Vice President of Environmental Systems Design (ESD) pose in-front of the North Exelon Pavilions in Millennium Park.  ESD provided LEED consulting, energy modeling services, and mechanical, plumbing, electrical, and fire protection engineering design services for the Chicago Park District (for this project). 
Courtesy of Bob Mead, Photo Pros, Inc.

Green Space Today
Mary Brush, AIA, Preservation Group Leader, Holabird & Root
Holabird & Root

The City of Chicago has been consistently renovating, restoring, and preserving its landmarks and natural habitats in recent years.  The Chicago Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall Dome was restored by the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Department of General Services.  Along with the project’s architect, Holabird & Root (Chicago), and General Contractor Wight & Co. (Darien, IL), this project also combined the collaborative efforts of more than 60 artisans and consultants (many of these artisans and consultants are locally based).  Mary Brush, AIA, Preservation Group Leader, Holabird & Root, told Green Space Today, “The recreation of the skylight utilized the original steel structure.  We improved natural ventilation over mechanical ventilation because a modern version of the original cupola was reintroduced.  Enhancing the architecture with new innovation and technologies was fascinating.”

Green Space Today
Seen here is the interior of The Chicago Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall Dome (before restoration).
Holabird & Root

Green Space Today
Seen here is the interior of The Chicago Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall Dome (after restoration).
Holabird & Root

Green Space Today
Seen here is the exterior of The Chicago Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall Dome (before restoration).
Holabird & Root

Green Space Today
Seen here is the exterior of The Chicago Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall Dome (after restoration).
Holabird & Root

Green Space Today
Peter Kindel, AIA, ASLA, President, TOPOGRAFIS
Courtesy of TOPOGRAFIS

Another unique restoration project is Chicago’s The Last Four Miles, the redevelopment and preservation of Chicago’s South Shore.  “At first there was community resistance to the program [The Last Four Miles], but the community has realized that this will be both a benefit to the community and the lakefront,” stated Peter Kindel, AIA, ASLA, President of TOPOGRAFIS, an urban design and land planning firm located in Chicago that is working on this project.  The Last Four Miles will include many attractions such as an extension of the lakefront bike trail, ecological preservation of wildlife habitat, and picnic areas for people to take in nature’s glory.  Not only will this project beautify the area, it will connect fragmented areas of neighborhoods.  This project is scheduled for completion in July 2009 and will coincide with the year-long Burnham Centennial Celebration in 2009.  The Friends of the Parks began the initiative known as the Last Four Miles. “There is an increasing awareness of the role of the community and reconnecting with the environment – the connection between nature and the neighborhood,” according to Kindel. 
A different example of Chicago-based community awareness can be seen with the growing popularity of Chicago’s Green City Market.

The City of Chicago continues to promote green initiatives.  Johnston said, “We (City of Chicago) are working on hundreds of green initiatives.  In September 2008, Mayor Daley launched one of the most comprehensive climate change plans-the Climate Action Plan.  This plan encourages Chicago residents to participate and aims to help Chicagoans save $800 per year through energy reduction.  As a result of the Climate Action Plan, Chicago will poetically save 3 more tons of carbon emissions annually.  We also have initiatives under-way such as recycling programming that isn’t just for residences, but for schools, businesses, and city facilities as well.”  The City of Chicago offers incentives for developers to go green too.  “Developers receive a density bonus for installing a green roof in the downtown area.  Educational materials are distributed to developers and builders to teach them about the practical benefits of green roofs - both environmental and economical,” said Mayor Daley. 

Green Space Today asked Mayor Daley “How can Chicago become more sustainable?”  Mayor Daley replied, “Chicago’s environmental agenda includes three main goals: conserving and protecting our natural resources, promoting environmentally friendly lifestyles with our residents, and leading by example by incorporating healthy environmental practices into the everyday work of government.  Some of the projects we are working on include: For water conservation, we're saving 160 million gallons of water per day by fixing old infrastructure.  For 500,000 trees that we’ve planted, we're now removing the air pollution from 40,000 cars annually.  More than 200 acres of new parks and green space have been added throughout the city.  Chicago is the most bicycle-friendly city in the nation.  We have 50 miles of bike paths, 100 miles of designated bike lanes on city streets and some 10,000 bike racks – more than any other city in the United States. And our McDonald’s Cycle Center in Millennium Park is one of the best bicycle stations in the world. 

For our green buildings we’re seeing energy consumption 20% less than conventional construction.  We’ve installed more than 70 miles of landscaped medians, which clean the air, beautify the City and absorb stormwater so we don’t overburden our sewer system.  We also have more than one megawatt of solar power generating capacity, which is more than virtually every other city in the country.  The city’s new Household Chemical and Computer Recycling Center features the first solar wall in the State of Illinois.  This wall absorbs heat and reduces energy consumption.  We have more than 600 public schools that are active in recycling programs currently and we’ve constructed more than 100 campus parks.  We also opened the city’s first permanent Household Chemical and Computer Recycling Center which accepts computers for recycling and allows for the safe disposal or recycling of household hazardous waste.”

Another key reason for Chicago’s standing as a top green city is the fact that Chicago has traditionally been a haven for architectural ingenuity and is still the home to many well-respected and influential design, development, engineering and construction corporations.  Like established, veteran companies such as Holabird & Root as well as youthful, promising companies such as TOPOGRAFIS, Chicago-based firms are able to materialize sustainable initiatives and create architecturally sound green public and private developments in the city and neighboring suburban communities.

Green Space Today
Rendering of the 353 N Clark St. Office Tower, Chicago, IL
Tony May

Green Space Today
Rendering of the up and coming 353 N Clark St. Office Tower, Chicago, IL (Developer: Mesirow Financial Real Estate, Inc.; Design Architect: Lohan Anderson, LLC; Architect of Record: Epstein; General Contractor: Bovis Lend Lease; Engineering: Environmental Systems Design
Tony May

Environmental consciousness has taken over many large development corporations.  One such example is Chicago-based Mesirow Financial Real Estate (MFRE), which is developing the up and coming 353 North Clark Street Office Tower ((designed by Lohan Anderson (Chicago)) located in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.  Expected to open in November 2009, the 353 North Clark Street Office Tower has been pre-LEED certified.  Many of the construction materials being used are of recycled content, including recycled concrete.  Additionally, between 80 and 90 percent of the construction waste has been recycled during the construction process (thus far).  The building’s envelope will be a glass curtain, using a coating material called Low-Emittance (Low-E) coating, which controls solar radiation while maximizing light transmittance; in essence, this will help the building’s tenants save on energy costs (namely heating costs during cold, Chicago winter months).
   
According to Mehdi Jalayerian, P.E., LEED AP, Senior Vice President, Environmental Systems Design ((Environmental Systems Design (Chicago) is providing engineering services for 353 North Clark Street Office Tower)), “This building will be extremely water efficient.  In addition to having automatic low flow fixtures, rainwater will be captured and used to provide irrigation for the entire plaza, which is unusual for an urban environment.”  Erik Pampel, LEED AP, Vice President, Mesirow Financial Real Estate, said, “We also have ‘green’ power contracts, where approximately 70 percent of the energy purchased for the building is from renewable energy sources.”

Green Space Today
The 111 S Wacker Drive (Chicago, IL) office building adds a sophisticated, sustainable touch to Chicago’s renowned architectural skyline.
James Steinkamp, Steinkamp Photography

Accessibility to public transportation is also a factor when considering green development.  “In addition to the infrastructure of the building, just the site’s location and surrounding, existing amenities have helped us tremendously gain pre-LEED certification,” said Pampel.  The 353 N. Clark St. Office Tower is close to several public transportation stops – both subway and bus – making it easier for people to get to their destinations in a cleaner fashion.  Bicycle storage lockers will be located in the basement of the building and nearby at 71 South Wacker Drive.  In close proximity to 353 N Clark, there is also a water taxi and shuttle busses, which transport people to commuter train stations throughout the city.

Green Space Today
The success of 111 S Wacker Drive is in large part due to The John Buck Company (developer); Goettsch Partners (architect); Bovis Lend Lease (General Contractor); and esteemed tenants who understand the value of inhabiting a green, corporate space.
James Steinkamp, Steinkamp Photography

Green Space Today
111 S Wacker Drive (Chicago) is the world’s first speculative high-rise office building to achieve LEED Gold-CS certification.
James Steinkamp, Steinkamp Photography

Another example of sustainable development is 111 South Wacker Drive ((designed by Goettsch Partners (Chicago) and built by Bovis Lend Lease)), which was completed in 2005, and was the first building to receive LEED CS-Gold certification.  Developed by The John Buck Company (Chicago), 111 S Wacker Drive features a green roof, low-flow faucets, native plantings, and low VOC paint.   Additionally, the glass and mechanical system used are energy efficient.  Also, One11 W Illinois, developed by The Alter Group (Skokie, IL), designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz & Associates (Chicago), and built by McHugh Construction Company (Chicago) offers a variety of green features such as energy-efficient Low-E glass.  One11 W Illinois also offers a high-efficiency air-handling system.  Like other new and up and coming skyscrapers, One11 W Illinois harvests natural light. 

Green Space Today
111 S Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL
James Steinkamp, Steinkamp Photography

Green Space Today
111 W Illinois, Chicago, IL
Courtesy of The Alter Group

Green Space Today
Dan Probst, CEM, Chairman of Energy & Sustainability Services, Jones Lang LaSalle
Courtesy of Jones Lang LaSalle

Integrated, Chicago-based real estate giant, Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), has received much recognition for its successful green projects and solutions; JLL was the EPA’s 2007 Energy Star Partner of the Year; recipient of Alliance to Save Energy’s Chairman’s Award; and was honored with the Sustainable Cities Award from the Urban Land Institute and the Financial Times.  Additionally, one of JLL’s engineers, John Schinter, was named the 2008 International Engineer of the Year by Association of Energy Engineers.  According to Dan Probst, Chairman of Energy and Sustainability Services, JLL’s approach to sustainability stems from its employees, who make a difference every day greening the Earth.  “We [Jones Lang LaSalle] have established the A Cleaner Tomorrow (ACT) program, which is an internal program; ACT’s elements include focusing on what we can do within our own real estate occupancy to make spaces greener,” he explained.

JLL’s Chicago headquarters showcases the firm’s commitment toward internal, corporate responsibility.  In JLL’s Chicago headquarters, the density has been increased to fit more people in less space (without compromising comfort), allowing for less overall energy consumption.  Moreover, after a survey was e-mailed to JLL’s staff for their opinions on what they can do in the office to be “green,” several ideas were implemented.  Some of the ideas were as simple as employees being more conscious and turning off unnecessary lights, computer monitors, and other electronic devices.  Another idea currently being used that stemmed from the survey is use of double-sided copies, which reduces paper consumption.

JLL has helped other companies become more sustainable too.  In 2007 alone, JLL assisted clients, helping them reduce their energy consumption by 210 million kWh and save $38 million in energy costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 133,000 metric tons.  “When considering energy savings, you must consider everything, not just water and waste emissions for example, but all operating systems.  You need to look at all of the operating systems throughout the building to make sure the building is running as efficiently as possible,” said Probst.

Green Space Today
Developer Joseph Freed & Associates is the current owner of The Sullivan Center, a Chicago landmark.   Joseph Freed & Associates’ corporate space was built-out by The Alter Group Construction Services and design services for this built-out were provided by Rossetti Associates and Sullivan/Roulette.  Other tenants of The Sullivan Center include Gensler (Clune Construction Company provided construction services for Gensler’s new Chicago office).
Courtesy of The Alter Group

Green Space Today
Ron Clarkson, President, The Alter Group Construction Services
Courtesy of The Alter Group

Currently there are many green renovations being applied to institutions in Chicago and Chicago’s historic landmarks including The Sullivan Center, the former home of the department store, Carson Pirie Scott.   Presently owned (and inhabited) by real estate developer Joseph Freed & Associates (Chicago), The Sullivan Center has been renovated, preserving Louis Sullivan’s architectural masterpiece (created during The Gilded Age) in the contemporary Age of Sustainability. 

 

Green Space Today
Douglass Woodward, Technical Architect, Rossetti Associates, Inc.
Courtesy of Rossetti Associates, Inc.

The Alter Group Construction Services and architectural firms Rossetti Associates and Sullivan/Roulette were responsible for construction and design services for the build-out of Joseph Freed & Associates’ new corporate space in The Sullivan Center.  According to Ronald M. Clarkson, President of the Alter Group Construction Services, “To work for Joseph Freed & Associates in a building which is a historical landmark was rewarding.  The carpeting was re-used through a recycling program and we used low-emission paint throughout the space.”  Rossetti Associates’ Lead Designer, Anjell Karibian, IIDA, added, “It was important for our client [Joseph Freed & Associates] to include sustainable materials and all fiber-based materials used were GREENGUARD Certified.  The importance of bringing daylight into the space was also important to our client.  This [project] was an opportunity to work on an historical landmark and to be a part of a revitalization of a dense city that is going through a rebirth – it was great to be a part of that heart beat.”  “This client was concerned about making its space as green as possible during a very short time frame,” stated Rossetti Associates’ Douglass Woodward, Technical Architect for the project. 

Green Space Today
Anjell Karibian, IIDA, Lead Designer, Rossetti Associates, Inc.
Courtesy of Rossetti Associates Inc.

Green Space Today
During renovation, decorative columns designed by Sullivan were preserved for Joseph Freed & Associates’ new corporate headquarters.
Courtesy of The Alter Group

Examples of institutional, green renovations and additions include Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies’ new facility and The Modern Wing at The Art Institute of Chicago (will open in 2009).  Please see the side-bar at the end of this article for a list of project leaders.

Green Space Today
Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies’ new facility (Chicago) opened to the public on November 30th, 2007.  This new LEED Silver facility incorporated green building components and continues to be operated/managed in a sustainable way.  (Architect and Interior Designer: Krueck + Sexton Architects; General Contractor: W.E. O’Neil Construction; Associate Architect: VOA Associates, Inc.; Engineers: Daniel Weinbach & Partners; Tylk, Gustafson, Reckers, Wilson, Andrews; and Environmental Systems Design; Commissioning Agent: U.S. Equities Development; Environmental Consultant: Atelier Ten; Lighting: ISP Design, Inc; Acoustical Design: Kirkegaard Associates)
J. Mark Andersen

Green Space Today
Rendering of The Modern Wing at The Art Institute of Chicago, scheduled to be open to the public in 2009.  The Modern Wing’s sustainable design will complement Millennium Park (located adjacent to The Modern Wing).  To learn more about this project, please visit http://www.artic.edu/aic/modern_wing/building/engineering.html  
(Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop; General Contractor: Turner Construction Company; Construction Manager: The Rise Group; Engineering Services: Arup; and Landscape Architect: Gustafson Guthrie Nichol)
Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago

Green Space Today
Rendering (gallery view) of The Modern Wing at The Art Institute of Chicago. 
Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

 

Green Space Today
The Corporate Headquarters of HSBC North America Holdings, Inc., located in Mettawa, IL (in Chicago’s north suburbs).  Jones Lang LaSalle was the client’s representative.  Other project leaders included Wright Heerema Architects, Hamilton Partners (developer), Pepper Construction Co. (general contractor and construction manager), Environmental Systems Design (MEP Technology & LEED Consulting Engineers), and Paladino & Co. (Sustainable Design Advisor).
Courtesy of Jones Lang LaSalle

 

Suburbs throughout the Chicago area have independent, sustainable programming and many green developments are flourishing in Chicago’s neighboring communities.  For example, HSBC Bank’s headquarters in Mettawa, IL, achieved LEED Gold.  Completed in January 2008, the HSBC building has bicycle storage; a storm water management system; front parking for hybrid cars and for those who car pool; and an extensive recycling program.  For The Park in Vernon Hills, IL, a senior living community in Vernon Hills, IL, landscape design firm Ives/Ryan Group (Naperville) helped to create an indoor rain forest, which has improved the health of its residents.  “Developers of both commercial and residential buildings are starting to see the benefits of going green just by the reduction in energy costs alone,” said John Ryan, President, Ives/Ryan Group, Inc.  Some suburbs have adopted independent sustainable programming.

Green Space Today
Ives/Ryan Group’s partners (L to R) John Benning, ASLA, Vice President, and John M. Ryan, ASLA, President, pose at The Park at Vernon Hills, Vernon Hills, IL.
Courtesy of Bob Mead, Photo Pros, Inc.

Green Space Today
The atrium at The Park at Vernon Hills.  The rainforest continues to flourish and has become more lush since it was initially constructed.
Courtesy of Bob Mead, Photo Pros, Inc.

Green Space Today
The Chicago Sustainable Business Alliance’ Steering Committee (9/07).  (Beginning with white board and going clockwise):Peter Nicholson, Executive Director of Foresight Design Initiative; Cors Herbach, Consulate General of the Netherlands Chicago;
Marilyn Jones, Consolidated Printing Company; Barry Bursak, Sustainable Business Consultant & Entrepreneur; Kevin Pierce, Emergency Picnic Consulting; Scott Schechter, Eagle Life Strategies; and Laura Flanigan, former Director of the Chicago Sustainable Business Alliance (now with Five Winds International).
Courtesy of The Chicago Sustainable Business Alliance

Organizations/chapters such as U.S. Green Building Council-Chicago Chapter and the Chicago Sustainable Business Alliance (CSBA) are helping people, companies, institutions, and government in Chicago gain an enhanced understanding of environmental issues and information on top sustainable practices.  “Our membership has grown – more businesses understand the importance of sustainability and ‘being green’ – they have become more environmentally aware. We [CSBA] offer a three-prong approach to businesses.  One: connect.  We offer many networking opportunities for members to connect with others and exchange ideas.  Two: learn. CSBA offers many workshops lead by leading professionals on various sustainability issues.  And three – do.  We also help businesses implement their ideas,” commented CSBA Program Manager Rajya Karipineni.  Offered on a monthly basis, CSBA’s Chicago Green Drinks is a way for business professionals to casually meet and discuss the latest environmental issues. 
For information regarding the U.S. Green Building Council-Chicago Chapter, please visit http://www.usgbc-chicago.org/ and for further information regarding the CSBA, please visit http://csba.foresightdesign.org/ 

Green Space Today
The Chicago Sustainable Business Alliance hosts monthly networking breakfasts, in which green business leaders come together to make the connections vital to further their business.
Courtesy of The Chicago Sustainable Business Alliance

Even though Chicago has taken great strides to be green and has been awarded many accolades, the city still has room for environmental improvement.  However, Chicago, through civic and corporate leadership, passion, and talent, combined with community and organizational support, is on the right path towards a sustainable future. 

Side-Bar:
1)The Modern Wing at The Art Institute of Chicago (Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop; General Contractor: Turner Construction Company; Construction Manager: The Rise Group; Engineering Services: Arup; and Landscape Architect: Gustafson Guthrie Nichol)

2)Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies’ new facility: (Architect and Interior Designer: Krueck + Sexton Architects; General Contractor: W.E. O’Neil Construction; Associate Architect: VOA Associates, Inc.; Engineers: Daniel Weinbach & Partners; Tylk, Gustafson, Reckers, Wilson, Andrews; and Environmental Systems Design; Commissioning Agent: U.S. Equities Development; Environmental Consultant: Atelier Ten; Lighting: ISP Design, Inc; Acoustical Design: Kirkegaard Associates)