Renowned architecture firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill (AS+GG) recently completed the investigation phase of a massive plan to “decarbonize” Chicago’s Loop. The firm’s goal was to assess variables such as the age, use, condition, and energy consumption of the 500 buildings in this central core area of the city. Carried out in cooperation with the Chicago Climate Action Plan, the monumental project calls for a retrofit of half the city’s commercial and residential buildings to result in a 30% reduction in energy use by 2020. AS+GG took on this tall order with very well thought-out, research based, holistic ideas that beg to be implemented.
The breadth of the initial phase of the Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan proposes eight key strategies to meet the city’s carbon reduction goals. The first, “Buildings,” discourages new construction, and focuses on retrofitting existing structures to increase their energy efficiency, raising the value of aging building stock and tapping into the potential to transfer excess energy loads back to the grid. “Urban Matrix,” promotes residential use of the Loop area by convert outdated office buildings into homes, schools and other services. Their “Smart Infrastructure” strategy explores energy generation, storage and distribution. “Mobility” assesses public transit and connectivity. “Water,” examines resource conservation, “Energy” highlights new and existing sources of power, and “Waste,” looks at the city’s system for processing, reducing, recycling, and disposing of garbage. Lastly, “Community Engagement” outlines ideas for involving the city’s inhabitants in the greening process.
Several concepts were presented with these strategies, such as plans to create a below-grade walkway system that would make city pedestrian friendly in extreme weather conditions. There was also an idea to use the Loop’s underground tunnels for an air-powered waste disposal system. Extensions for the Chicago River walking and biking paths are also called for. We love that they also suggest publishing a standardized textbook for all city schools that would teach urban design and decarbonization for public school students.