A GREEN MACH I N E
Forget the steel factories and meatpacking plants. Chicago is forging a
The city has long offered tax breaks
and limited grants to companies and
individuals who “green” their building
roofs—planting gardens or shrubbery
to absorb solar radiation and reduce
ambient heat. And Chicago now has
250-plus green roofs covering over
2. 5 million square feet (232,257
square meters)—more than any other
city in the United States, according to
Apollo Alliance, an environmental
advocacy group. Chicago’s Millennium
Park is also home to what’s believed to
be the world’s largest green roof. Built
over train tracks and an underground
parking garage, half of the 24.5-acre
(10-hectare) site is planted in grass,
shrubs, trees and gardens.
Last year, the city took another big
step, launching a comprehensive effort
to reduce greenhouse gases to 25 percent below 1990 levels.
“This is an ambitious plan that contains many important ideas that will
ensure Chicago continues to distinguish itself as an environmental role
model for the rest of the nation,” Richard M. Daley,
the city’s mayor, said.
The Chicago Climate Action Plan outlines a
roadmap of 29 actions for mitigating greenhouse
gas in four areas: buildings, transportation, energy
and waste pollution.
That list calls for plenty of green construction
projects, including large-scale solar-energy
installations at city facilities and publicly accessible
alternative fueling stations.
The city’s chief environmental officer, Sadhu
Johnston, told Crain’s Chicago Business that
projects to retrofit old buildings to be more
energy efficient represent a major opportunity
for business and job growth. The plan mandates
retrofitting some 400,000 residential units and
9,000 commercial and institutional buildings.
Projects might include energy efficiency
audits, solar panel installation and improved
Chicago city planners are also proposing a project
to transform a former steel plant on the city’s south
side into a green community. The goal is to redevelop more than 1,100 acres (445 hectares) into a
new sustainable neighborhood with green buildings, a lakefront park and bicycle paths.
Yet the site presented some challenges.
Before 2005, it was covered in slag, a nontoxic
byproduct of the steelmaking process. Nothing could
grow on the rock-like material—which put a kink in
the planners’ vision for a 17-acre lakeshore park.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources scientists
resolved the issue by dredging tons of excess sediment from the Illinois River and shipping it via
barges to the future site of the park. Now the river
sediment acts as the entire area’s topsoil and plants
are growing there.
But it’s probably not time to break out the bulldozers quite yet. The project is estimated to take
between 20 and 30 years.
APRIL 2009 PM NETWORK
>>ON THE MAP: CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, USA