February 17, 2018

How Chicago Thinks

While several Design Institute panelists said that, in their experiences, architects took full charge of the green construction and design process, Erin Lavin Cabonargi, Public Building Commission, Chicago, said that “in our case, we often find we are pushing the envelope.” She argued for the impact sustainable sites can have on a community—namely, connectivity—and encouraged librarians to use regional and recycled materials as well and to keep track of any usable materials newly introduced to the market. In the case of the Public Building Commission, she said, “we’re continually looking for more product, better product.”

Lavin Cabonargi further listed four “challenges and opportunities” she believes are integral to the successful implementation of green design:

  1. timely reporting of paperwork
  2. tracking and reporting to facilitate best practices
  3. qualitative and quantitative analyses
  4. using LEED as a framework for site selection.

Air-quality control

In the Harold Washington Library Center’s Winter Garden, luncheon speaker Sadhu Johnston, chief environmental officer, Mayor’s office, Chicago, enumerated some of the city’s efforts toward a sustainable city to date:

Since 1989, 500,000 trees have been planted, collectively lowering the city’s air pollution and reducing the overall “urban heat island effect.”

The retrofitted green roof of Chicago’s City Hall has since its 2001 completion saved the city thousands of dollars a year on utilities; more than four million square feet of green roofs are currently underway.

The city has bought hundreds of compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles and ethanol (E85) vehicles and has partnered with the Chicago Transit Authority to test-run a new fleet of diesel-electric hybrid buses.

A Green Permit program expedites permits for those in the private sector going green and gives money for green and zoning changes.

The city issues grants for homeowners in Chicago’s hottest areas (i.e., those with urban heat islands) to retrofit their roofs.

A “green-collar jobs” initiative has helped reinvigorate the city’s economy; a green buildings agenda focuses not just on construction but on operation and maintenance as well (e.g., integrated pest management, green cleaning, energy-efficient lightbulbs).

Chicago is now working on a 2016 Olympics bid, aiming for the first-ever carbon-neutral Olympics.

Usable Losables

Recycling applies as much to a project’s outgoing as to its ingoing materials. Consider the case of the Chicago Center for Green Technology (below), the country’s first municipal building to be renovated to LEED Platinum standards. When Chicago’s Department of Environment (DOE) discovered that the once-abandoned building’s 17-acre spread was being illegally dumped with demolition debris, it appropriated the site and led its cleanup. The cleanup, originally estimated at $20 million, cost only $9 million, as the DOE ended up recycling 80 percent of the waste by selling concrete and other materials to recycling firms and to other city departments for use in their projects.