By Lauren Finkler
Chicago is synonymous with is great architecture — and many of those buildings in Chicago also have a dedication to environmental awareness.
With the heavy pedestrian, automobile and bicycle traffic throughout the streets, recycling simply isn’t enough. Today, the Windy City boasts approximately seven million square feet of green roofs (with some still under construction) as well as an efficient public transportation system and 165 miles of bikeways, according to the city of Chicago website, which states, “Today, Chicago is one of the world’s greenest and most livable cities, thanks to strong partnerships and increased environmental awareness among government, residents and businesses.”
The Chicago Tribune reported in February that Chicago has 223 LEED-certified buildings, more than any other U.S. city, and 516 registered certifications in varying stages of construction. Here’s a glimpse at how the city obtained the green ranking it has today:
- 1989: Mayor Daley begins a tree planting campaign, which has now led to 600,000 trees in Chicago.
- 1992: The Bike 2000 plan creates 114 miles of on-street bike lanes, 50 miles of bike trails and 10,000 bike racks – who says Chicago isn’t bike-friendly?
- 1995: New job support/training is offered through Greencorps in an effort to support community gardens.
- 1998: “Clean Air Counts” program is initiated in an effort to improve air quality.
- 2001: Chicago City Hall’s green roof is completed; today four million square feet of green roofs exist throughout the city.
- 2002: The Chicago Center for Green Technology opens, serving as the first municipal renovation LEED Platinum building in the world.
- 2003: The Chicago Water Agenda is introduced, and the city joins the Chicago Climate Exchange as a charter member, striving to lower greenhouse gas emissions by six percent by 2010.
- 2004: Millennium Park, the award-winning outdoor center for art, music, architecture and landscape design opens, boasting Chicago’s biggest green roof as well as one of the world’s largest parks built over a structure.
- 2005: Chicago is the only city in the world with four LEED Platinum buildings.
- 2008: Mayor Daley works to reduce emissions through the Chicago Climate Action Plan, aiming to reduce them by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.
In addition, many of Chicago’s monumental museums and sightseeing attractions actively use energy efficient practices under the Green Museums Initiative, which was launched in 2005. Some museums choose educational exhibits, such as a vehicle that runs on restaurant cooking oil (the collaborative effort of the Field Museum of Natural History and Nacional 27 restaurant). Additionally, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum was the recipient of the Overall Achievement Award, and Shedd Aquarium received the Leadership Award for their commitments to environmental innovation. Read on to learn about some of Chicago’s must-see green attractions:
- The Greenest Home in Chicago: 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive: The Museum of Science and Industry is currently featuring its Smart Home exhibit, up until January, offering a 30 minute guided tour where visitors will encounter uniquely repurposed furnishings, technologically advanced gadgets and unheard of innovations in urban gardening, all topped off with solar panels and an energy-saving green roof. The exhibit is not included with general admission (read more about the Smart Home exhibit on page 15).
- The Chicago Center for Green Technology: This one-of-a-kind Chicago building allows residents and visitors alike to learn about a large variety of energy efficient practices – and on top of that, it’s free.
- Highest LEED-certified Scoring Property in Chicago- 6835 N. Algonquin Ave.: Located in Edgebrook, this home received a “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” LEED Platinum certification; with hard-working wind turbines and solar panels allowing the residents to skirt bills for heating and air conditioning, recycled-content tiles, reclaimed wood from a burned Chicago building, triple-paned FSC-certified wood frame windows, landscaping with native species, and an impressive LEED score of 119 points (out of 136), the home is considered one of the most energy-efficient and affordably built ($80 per square foot) home in the United States, according to Crain’s.
- Homes Across America Solar and Geothermal Renovated Home: This three-bedroom single-family home in Elgin was recognized by Homes Across America after the renovation’s completion in 2000, by Advanced Geothermal Plumbing and Heating, LLC. The home contains 18 resource efficient features and the renovation significantly reduced the homeowner’s reliance on fossil fuels. Tours can be arranged, and the home has also served as a demonstration on geothermal energy for local high school science classes.