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Chicago, the green city

06 Jul 2004 by Jason Fried

Metropolis Magazine has a piece on Mayor Daley’s crusade to make Chicago the nation’s greenest city. As anyone who lives here (or has visited — especially in the summer) can attest, Daley has packed the city full of trees (over 400,000 have been planted so far), flowers, and mixed planters — from the lakefront, to the boulevard medians (so far 63 miles of medians have been built and landscaped), to street corners, to rooftops (Chicago City Hall features the country’s first rooftop garden on a municipal building). The article also talks about Daley’s controversial, dictatorial destruction of Meigs Field — to build, what else, but another public park. Be sure to download the enlightening Greening of the Windy City map (PDF).

I liked this paragraph:

…Daley was criticized for focusing too much on aesthetics. “At first people didn’t really understand the larger benefits,” says Lisa Roberts, director of the Garfield Park Conservatory—one of the nation’s largest and oldest—which was on the verge of total collapse when Daley put her in charge of a complete renovation. “It’s not just about beautification. And he gets that. One of the smart things he did was to bring in some researchers to address city council members who showed that the presence of greening in people’s lives has a direct link to lowering crime rates, improving test scores, boosting real estate values, et cetera.”

I was also surprised to read that Chicago’s CCGT (Chicago Center for Green Technology) building is one of only 5 LEED Platinum-certified buildings in the country.

The CCGT is an office building, educational facility, factory, and a “Garden in the City”—so multifunctional components, like a lobby that doubles as a classroom, were devised. Seventy-three percent of the floorplate is daylit, creating sizable energy savings. The building is cooled and heated by geo-exchange heat pumps, and the elevator uses canola oil rather than hydraulic fluid.

Canola oil. CANOLA OIL!

15 comments so far (Post a Comment)

06 Jul 2004 | CM Harrington said...

That is so hot. I've been recently getting into the whole "sustainable home" idea, and it looks like Chicagoland trying to do its part.

Rock on, folks!

06 Jul 2004 | Tom said...

"showed that the presence of greening in people’s lives has a direct link to lowering crime rates, improving test scores, boosting real estate values, et cetera."

...slightly sceptically, isn't it more that people who own higher value properties, get better test scores etc. happen to live in areas with more greenery?

That aside, this does sound like a wonderful way to improve Chicago, and developing such a great sustainable building on that scale is very impressive indeed. Let's hope we see more of that everywhere.

06 Jul 2004 | ~bc said...

Chicago City Hall features the country’s first rooftop garden on a municipal building

And to match, even Apple's Chicago flagship on North Michigan Ave. has a rooftop garden.

06 Jul 2004 | Darrel said...

"features the country’s first rooftop garden on a municipal building"

I work across the street from a municipal parking ramp with the top floor being a completely landscaped park that's been there for years. Granted, perhaps they don't consider ramps buildings. ;o)

The biggest benefits of greening cities is that it doesn't get so DAMN HOT in the summer. It's amazing come August that just driving outside of the city limits can drop the temp 5-10 degrees.

06 Jul 2004 | Grouchy McGrouch said...

Hey Daley, could you send one of those 400,000 trees over to my side yard? And clean up the gigantic mess your boys left when they took the old one.

06 Jul 2004 | Darrel said...

"...slightly sceptically, isn't it more that people who own higher value properties, get better test scores etc. happen to live in areas with more greenery?"

Interesting comment, Tom. There's little incentives for folks to maintain gardens in the projects.

06 Jul 2004 | Urbanchords said...

Don't forget about the initiative to green the Chicago Bungalows. http://www.cityofchicago.org/Environment/html/GreenBungalows.html

I did see Mayor Daley speak while I was in Chicago for the American Institute of Architects National Convention last month. He still kind of scares me. Especially after the Meigs Field deal. I applaud his efforts, but it still seems kind of weak. You can plant a lot of flowers, but that really doesn't make it sustainable. Personally as an architect and a LEED Accredited Professional, the CCGT is an ugly building. It looks like a big ugly box with solar panels fixed to it.

While Chicago is doing some good things, Honolulu is doing things even better. Later during the same convention, I saw Mayor Harris speak. He was truly inspiring. They are trying to make everything sustainable, yet still keep their culture.

There aren't really any good items on the web for it.
http://www.rebuild.org/attachments/actionplans/SusHonActionPlan.pdf http://www.honoluludpp.org/Planning/DevSustCommPlans.asp

06 Jul 2004 | Brad Hurley said...

A few tidbits (excerpted from an unpublished article on greenroofs that was written a few years ago):

The City of Chicago began construction of a 38,800 square foot semi-extensive greenroof on City Hall in April 2000. The city completed the project in the summer of 2001 and is monitoring the site to quantify environmental benefits. The rooftop garden will decrease City Hall’s air conditioning and heating bills, improve air quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The projected energy savings from reduced cooling needs is estimated to be 9,272 kilowatt-hours per year, and the natural gas savings for heating are estimated at 7,372 therms per year, equating to a cost savings of $3,600 per year. The city will calculate actual energy savings once a full year’s data is compiled.

The Chicago Department of Environment is monitoring the rooftop garden as part of its Urban Heat Island Initiative. A study by an environmental consulting firm found that Chicago could save about $100 million a year in energy costs if 30 percent of the city’s roofs were greened.

Greenroofs can save energy through a combination of shading, evapotranspiration, and insulation, reducing cooling costs in summer and heating costs in winter. By providing a protective covering, gardens also prevent mechanical damage to roofs, which may extend their life up to 40-75 years. In addition to these direct financial benefits, large office buildings with rooftop gardens can provide a place for stressed employees to unwind and relax, reduce noise transmission into the building, and increase property value.

06 Jul 2004 | Nick said...

What struck me about the piece was Mayor Daley's stance on where environmentalism begins: in the center of urban space. "Environmentalism," in whatever sense, isn't something reserved for Grand Teton hiking Coloradians, but something Chicago developers, planners, and citizens need to be concerned about.


07 Jul 2004 | Gordon said...

"...slightly sceptically, isn't it more that people who own higher value properties, get better test scores etc. happen to live in areas with more greenery?"

Doesn't it work along the lines of the zero tolerance stuff introduced in NY? Not sure, just wondering - either way well done Chicago.

07 Jul 2004 | Carrie said...

I lived on Chicago's northside and commuted downtown from 1989-1997. Visiting the city now takes my breath away - the greenery does do wonders for the city. Daley has done an excellent job making urban life beautiful.

08 Jul 2004 | but that's just me said...

Speaking of "green" and beautifying Chicago, this is interesting...

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/12/11/60II/main532704.shtml

I haven't lived in Chicago in almost two decades and had no idea they were tearing down Cabrini-Green, nor did I know the mayor was greenifying everything. I think it might be time to go visit the parents.

Also, if putting greenery on the tops of buildings saves energy AND makes things oh so pretty, I certainly hope it catches on. Do you suppose building a rooftop garden would also have the same effect on a house in suburbia or is this only effective in urban environments?

09 Jul 2004 | Jose Rui Fernandes said...

Great! What are the other cities waiting for? This is the way to go. Enough of grey already. In my country we're still in the phase of building a dam in one of the last savage rivers of Europe. Since I mentioned it, I will kindly ask everyone to sign the petition against the dam.

09 Jul 2004 | Jose Rui Fernandes said...

but that's just me said:
The green roof can be effective anywhere with appropriate weather. It's not practical to install in a very incline roof (meaning places with lot's of snow are out). Also very important is the isolation with the right materials and professional installation. You'll need access to the roof for gardening (can be just a lawn, but it will need to be cut and water in the summer). You should consider the fact that the house will attract some wildlife, meaning more insects like spiders inside.
The photovoltaic solar panels are also an important and intelligent addition to the city. Not only they're environmentally friendly but hey can make a big difference in a black out, in public places and private homes.

12 Jul 2004 | dc said...

I am now motivated to leave the mos growning on my roof.
No word on plant roots and roof leaks though.

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