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4 Chicago LEED Projects Changing the Game

Today, the USGBC announced its annual list of Top 10 states for LEED per capita. Illinois gets top honors by a landslide, for the second year in a row.


Our great state certified 174 projects in 2014, or 42.5M SF (3.31 SF/resident). USGBC Illinois Chapter executive director Brian Imus says it’s no surprise Illinois continues to lead the pack since Chicago hosts so many HQs of international corporations that make green building a priority. Thought leaders include the likes of Siemens, WW Grainger, McDonald’s, John Deere and Walgreens. Here are four game-changing projects. 

1. New Retail Standard – Evanston's Net-Zero Walgreens


It’s the first net-zero energy retail pharmacy in the world, and Walgreens is pushing competitors to reconsider the value of building green, Brian tells us. Other retailers continue to reach out to Walgreens, he says, to learn more about its sustainable practices and how they affect the bottom line. Ways the store generates energy: almost 850 rooftop solar panels (which could power 30 homes for a year); two 35-foot wind turbines (offsetting annual greenhouse gas emissions from 2.2 passenger vehicles); and geothermal energy collected from 550 feet below ground (for heating and cooling the store).

2. First in the World – Grainger’s Lake Forest Data Center


LEED standards get tougher every few years, and v4 of the rating system launched in the fall of ’13. The new standards aren’t required until next year, Brian says, but Grainger made it a priority to make its HQ’s new 27k SF data center the globe’s first v4 certified project. The site’s standout green tech details include a passive fuel-sharing system between generator belly tanks, which minimizes refueling and interruptions to data operations. It’s expected to consume up to 50% less energy for cooling than comparable facilities thanks to a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.2 at full capacity.

3. Neighborhood Revitalizer – Hyde Park’s Harper Court


This one’s been collecting LEED certifications, Brian says, like the LEED Neighborhood Development Gold designation, which is incredibly challenging to achieve in the City of Chicago. Developed by a venture including the City, UChicago, Vermilion Development and JFJ Development, the mixed-use project (office, hotel, retail, parking, outdoor space) was awarded for its urban infill location with easy access to public transit, employment centers and a wide variety of retail. Once it succeeds in collecting LEED New Construction on the hotel, LEED Commercial Interiors for the offices and LEED Core & Shell, Harper Court will have one of the top green resumes in the country.

4. Skyscrapers Can Do It, Too – Aon Center


To recertify Chicago’s third-tallest building’s 2.7M SF LEED Silver was no small feat, Brian tells us. Ownership Piedmont Office Realty Trust (along with property manager JLL) pulled it off by investing in upgrades and systems that reduce energy consumption, beefing up energy analytics to monitor conservation and actively involving tenants in sustainable programs. Aon’s green features include: improved building automation, low-flow faucets and a robust recycling program. We should have guessed the tall tower could keep up with the times. It survived a complete granite refacing in the early ‘90s due to the deterioration of its thin Italian Carrara marble.