A GREEN PILGRIMMAGE SIte

As a flagship building project of Mayor Daley “green” agenda, upon its opening in 2003 this pioneering renovation project helped put the City of Chicago on the world map of sustainability. Among its many achievements, the Chicago Center for Green Technology became only the third LEED-Platinum buildingin the world and the first LEED-Platinum renovation, first municipally-led Platinum, first Midwest Platinum, and first Platinum brownfield project in the world. The project became the Chicago region’s sustainability training center and a glimpse into the future for policy makers and designers from around the world. 

This groundbreaking project happened thanks to a rare combination of visionary leadershipand interorganizational collaboration. This project was conceived by Chicago DOE Deputy Commissioner David Reynolds out of two overlapping opportunities: 1) after cleaning up an illegal dump site on Sacramento Boulevard the City  of Chicago became the owner of a vacant 2-story 1952 office building, and 2) Commissioner Bill Aboldt of the Chicago Department of the Environment and the Chair of the AIA Committee on the Environment had just signed an Memorandum of Understandingto promote the development of LEED-certified buildings. Mayor Daley signed on and the project was given a mandate to become a showcase of the emerging practice called green buildings.

The project was hatched with a lot of ambition by promising Mayor Daley it would achieve LEED Platinum status at a time when no other building had done so. Farr Associates served as team lead and Architect of Record, adding several members of the AIA Chicago COTE to the consultant team. Farr organized their first Integrated Design Workshop, an intense all-day, all-team edu-design session that used LEED 1.0 as a design checklist. At the end of the day the team had at best a fuzzy idea of which credits we could or could not attain. Just to add to the challenge, in a dramatic nailbiter, the General Contractor was removed from the project mid-construction introducing a legal wall between  the design team and the GC’s LEED-documentation. Nonetheless, in 2003 the project achieved LEED 1.0 Platinum certification with exactly 52 creditsand no margin for error! 

CCGT achieved its goal of being a living showcase, demonstrating a catalog of green and innovative products and technologies.  The project had a long list of Chicago and Midwest green firsts. On the exterior: city’s first extensive green roof, building integrated solar panels, ground-source heating and cooling, rainwater cisterns, pervious pavers, Road Oyl paving, rain gardens and a trellis made of the wood from reclaimed pickle barrels. Inside the building firsts included vegetable oil used as a substitute for elevator hydraulic fluid, displacement ventilation, cork floors, linoleum, and low-VOC paints and sealants. 

Over its 11 years of operation, the building often served as the architecture and design industry’s first introduction to green building techniques, and an essential training ground for many of Chicago’s leading green professionals. 

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Client: City of Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Year: 2003

Certification: LEED Platinum

Awards: AIA Top 10 Green Buildings

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