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By Matt Baker
Concrete, industry proponents will tell you, is one of the most sustainable building materials on the market. It is incredibly durable, made from abundant materials, has a low thermal transmittance and it is recyclable. All of these are true. Unfortunately, it is also an enormous source of carbon dioxide emissions.
Cement, to be precise, is the real culprit. Portland cement typically composes a little more than 10% of concrete’s volume, but 90% of its carbon footprint. Given how ubiquitous concrete is as a building material, something needs to be done to lower these emissions.
By Linda Seggelke
The Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) recently took home first prize in the Campus RainWorks Challenge among small institutions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the Challenge to increase awareness and to inspire the upcoming engineers, landscape architects and planners to focus on infrastructure that helps manage stormwater, improve water quality and prevent flooding caused by heavy rains on a college or university campus. The winning team consisted of a faculty advisor and 14 graduate and undergraduate students from various disciplines including landscape architecture, environmental management, business and engineering.
By Matt Baker
For seven years, Index Publishing has hosted the Building Green Chicago Conference & Expo in downtown Chicago. This annual event brings together sustainable leaders from the private and public sectors, hundreds of attendees and companies and organizations eager to show off their solutions for making our built environment greener.
By Matt Baker
Bears season tickets. That is possibly the only waiting list in Chicago longer than the one to get a boat slip. With marina demand so large, the need for a new harbor was evident. The Chicago Park District conducted a study of the lakefront in 2005 to determine the best spot for a new marina. At the top of that list was one location: 31st Street.
By Matt Baker
In 2009, according the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 120 million Americans commuted to work. Despite the rising cost of fuel, the vast majority of them—76%—drove alone. Only 5% took some sort of public transit and less than 1% traveled by bicycle.
By Matt Baker
Changes in how we interact with our environment come about in different ways. For example, the president can make a call to action on renewable energy, like Barack Obama did in this year’s state of the union address. Legislation, such as the revised energy conservation code, mandate behavior modification. But for the residents of north side Andersonville, change can also percolate from the bottom up.
By Linda Seggelke
Food deserts—areas where access to groceries and fresh food has been replaced by convenience stores and fast food restaurants—have plagued Chicago for years, particularly in the west and south neighborhoods. A recent report has shown that these areas are shrinking, with the number of Chicagoans living in a food desert reduced by 40% over the last five years.
By Clarence P. Denning
Pay any attention to green building trends and you’ll hear an oft-cited number: 40%. That’s the share of U.S. energy consumption taken by buildings. The picture is bigger than that, however, and little of it is rosy.
In 1980, buildings accounted for not quite 33%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Back then, the energy-intensive industry sector accounted for more at over 41%. By 2010, those figures had nearly swapped; industry had shrunk to under 31% while buildings now consumed over 41%.
Residential buildings have always accounted for a larger portion than commercial buildings, but the latter have grown much faster over that time period. Residential structures grew from 20.1% of the total U.S. energy portfolio in 1980 to 22.5%. Over those thirty years, commercial buildings grew from 13.5% to 18.6%. The DOE predicts that to jump to 20% by 2035. In a dense, urban area like Chicago, structures account for about 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, with nearly 40% coming from commercial buildings.
Clearly, steps need to be taken to abate this growth. In 2009, the City of Chicago created a program to address commercial energy use, in coordination with Local Governments for Sustainability (known as ICLEI after their former title, International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives).
The Green Office Challenge is a friendly competition among office tenants to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The Challenge not only offers an opportunity for Chicago businesses and property managers to gain recognition for their green achievements, they can save energy, save money and gain a competitive advantage in green innovations.
More than 100 property owners and office tenants participated in the first year, including Jones Lang LaSalle, the Merchandise Mart, Transwestern Corporation, Office Depot and Microsoft. Office tenants are evaluated through a “green office scorecard” based on 50 green strategies that are related to five key office-related sectors: waste, energy, transportation, outreach and tenant engagement. Property managers can implement behavioral changes and capital improvements to reach those goals, and all are encouraged to use Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager to track the data.
Nearly 150 property managers and tenant companies located in Chicago’s downtown business district took part in the Green Office Challenge last year. Combined, they saved $17.5 million in energy costs and reduced energy use by 124 million kWh, the equivalent to the energy used by 45,000 homes. These efforts averted the emission of more than 85,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
“Chicago’s efforts in sustainability have created economic opportunity throughout our neighborhoods and dramatically improved the overall quality of life for residents,” said Mayor Emanuel. “The Green Office Challenge is a great example of the private sector working with government to reduce costs and create jobs while protecting the environment.”
Participants worked to set and achieve specific green goals, supported primarily through monthly training events, use of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and other tools. It is because of these efforts, for example, that participants were able to divert 43% of their waste from landfills.
Round three, which launched in February, is a collaboration between the city and various partners, including non-profit Delta Institute, technology start-up GreenPoint Partners and sponsor Office Depot. This round will run through 2013 and suggests activities that employees and building managers can undertake to green their business practices. The competition has previously been focused on office buildings and tenants in the Loop, but this round will expand to those not just in the central business district but across the city and even the suburbs.
Mayor Emanuel’s environmental action agenda, Sustainable Chicago 2015, sets a target of doubling participation and impact in round three, as part of a larger goal to accelerate the economy through sustainability.
Aside from opening up the program to the full extent of the Chicago area, the key to the future success of this version is competition. “In Chicago, we like to compete and we like to win. And we love to win on sustainability,” said Karen Weigert, the city’s Chief Sustainability Officer, at the February launch party. “We want Chicago to be the most sustainable, competitive, livable city in the world.”
Last summer, ICLEI released the Green Business Challenge App, a customizable web application that now allows any municipality to launch a friendly competition among its business community to save money, energy, water and waste. Based on the success of Chicago’s Green Business Challenge, nearly a dozen cities and counties have also launched similar programs, including Houston, Charleston and Arlington County.
Houston Green Office Challenge participants reduced energy use by 28 million kilowatt hours, water use by 74 million gallons, and diverted 40% of their waste from landfills, in addition to many other achievements like adding bicycle parking, implementing flex time and telecommuting policies. The secret to the Green Business Challenge program’s success is twofold: fun and friendly competition, and media recognition for the businesses’ green achievements.
The web app allows any local government to launch a Green Business Challenge program in weeks, not months, and to administer it with fewer staff and less money. Participants access the app through the local government’s website, and use it to register, take a baseline survey, browse a library of tips and resources, update their achievements, view a scorecard that tracks their progress toward goals, read customized suggestions for ways to increase their score and operate a carbon calculator. Program administrators can use the tool to customize the pr-ogram, view reports on participants’ progress and maintain engagement with mass emails.
You may have heard that bus rapid transit (BRT) was coming to Chicago next year. The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) unveiled this week the proposed lane configurations for the Loop streets to be used for the service starting in 2014.
The city of Chicago announced today the expansion of the blue cart recycling program to the 49th and 50th Wards. However, city officials also vowed to expand recycling pickup to the entirety of Chicago by the end of the year.