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Transit-Oriented Development and Waking up from the American Dream

December 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

By Matt Baker

Six-way intersections. Highway-adjacent playgrounds. Railway grade crossings. Urban planning is one of those practices one might not notice until encountering a poor example of it. While the frustration of a long commute may annoy the lay person, urban planning wonks know that the ways we arrange and interact with our built environment can have powerful impacts.

One emerging part of the urban planner’s toolbox is transit-oriented development (TOD). As our culture shifts, with more and more people opting to live in dense, urban neighborhoods and renouncing automobiles, the urban landscape must respond.
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Overcoming the Challenges of a Green Hotel

December 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

By Matt Baker

You keycard into your room, turn on the lights and toss your luggage into the closet. Hey, there’s a mini fridge! Everything is marked up way too high so you don’t really need it, but it’s nice to know it’s there. After flipping on the television, you lean over the gigantic a/c unit in front of the window to open the blinds and check out the view.

It’s getting late, but you deserve a shower. You let the water run a bit to get hot and check out the allotment of tiny toiletries provided by the hotel. There’s one and a half servings of shampoo in the little bottle, so you just discard what’s left when you’re done. After you dry off, you toss the towel on the floor; the housekeeper will get it.

Finally you hop into bed. They always tuck the sheets in too tight, but by the morning you will have kicked them into a ball on the floor. No worries—the house staff will bring in fresh sheets too. You are in a strange bed in a strange city, but you can peacefully nod off because while you’re here, you’re going to relax and pamper yourself.

You are on vacation, and you are a terrible person.
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Live Crowdfunding Event Boosts Local Sustainability Innovators

November 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Imagine if the viewers of Shark Tank could crash the stage, shove aside the venture capitalist hosts and bid for who they think should get some seed money. Also imagine that each entrepreneur has an idea to make the world a greener place.

Such is the conceit of BOOST (Building Opportunities for Original and Sustainable Thinking), a live, crowdfunded event in support of Chicago-area sustainability innovations. Audience members provide the available funds through their ticket purchases; at the event, they then vote to determine which innovators will receive funding. Yesterday, two entrepreneurs—Octavia Hooks of Octavia’s Natural Hair Care Experience and Roman Titus, founder of Sojourn Fare—won financial support for their sustainability ventures.
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When It Rains, It Drains

October 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

westmont1By Matt Baker

Our infrastructure relies on asphalt and concrete. Few materials can hold up as long as they do and none as cheaply. They are so durable in part because of their impregnability, a strength that unfortunately creates a problem.

These impervious surfaces direct rain into the sewer system; during heavy storm events, the sewers are often overburdened and the contents—now stormwater mixed with effluent—often discharge back into streams, rivers and lakes. This poor handling of stormwater also exacerbates flooding and soil erosion.

So how do you fix the flaws of an impenetrable material? Poke some holes in it.
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The Influence of IoT on Infrastructure

October 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Christian Jebsen, CEO of Kebony

iot1Rapid urban development over the past decade has led to the largest city populations in history, with more than half of the world now living in urban areas. While urbanization fosters economic activity for cities, it also creates environmental issues caused by increased carbon emissions and energy use. To compensate for their consumption, city officials and inhabitants are turning to key IoT technologies to form a networked physical world that will reshape the fundamental ways in which their cities operate. IoT solutions are prioritizing sustainability to combat the challenges of city growth by influencing the direction of urban infrastructure.
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New Facility Targets Tomorrow’s Electricians

October 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

By Matt Baker

The cost to install alternative energy technology like wind and solar has steadily dropped for the last several years. One consequence of this competitive pricing on renewables is that the next generation of electricians will need revolutionary training in order to install and maintain these revolutionary technologies.

That’s where the IBEW NECA Technical Institute (IN-TECH) comes in. A joint education facility between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers #134 and the Electrical Contractors Association of Chicago, IN-TECH has graduated thousands of apprentice electricians and enhanced the skills of journeymen.

This September, they cut the ribbon on a renewable energy training field (RETF) at their Alsip campus. There, IN-TECH will prepare union electricians to use the latest sustainable technologies at the country’s largest outdoor training campus of its kind.
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Above and Beyond: Oakton’s Science Center Reaches Toward Sustainability

October 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

By Matt Baker

Oakton Community College’s new science building is a study in buoyancy. It has a deceptively small footprint as stilts lift much of the structure up off of the ground; a spectacular cantilever gives definition to what might have been a conservative design and suggests that the building is set to dive nose first into the nearby lake. But these aren’t merely aesthetic choices. They have much to say about the building, its use and its sustainability. Read more

Brownfields Conference to Land in Chicago

July 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Brownfields are economic and environmental blights to any community, and the challenge of remedying them is a daunting one. A property is considered to be a brownfield if it is vacant and any redevelopment would be complicated by the presence of contamination, whether real or perceived. That last part is important; the mere perception of hazardous materials is enough to keep many developers from even considering a site.
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Chicago Third in Nation for Green Building Adoption

July 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

CBREChicago has retained its ranking among the nation’s largest metropolises on a recent survey of sustainable office space. With 63.4% of its office space certified green, Chicago came in third, behind Minneapolis and San Francisco. As Chicago is significantly larger than these two other cities combined, this market has clearly embraced green real estate practices like no other.
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Building Smart Meet-Up 6/24/15 Photo Gallery

July 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment