“Big Blue” plays the suit of green

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Location: 330 N. Wabash, Chicago, IL 60611

Contractor: Bear Construction

Owner: Prime Group Realty Trust

By William Olson

At the Chicago River’s southerly hiccough, a modern icon has gone green.

The building at 330 N. Wabash, Mies Van der Rohe’s architectural encore in America, recently underwent a sustainable renovation and earned the USGBC’s Silver Certification for Existing Buildings (EB) Operations & Maintenance (O&M). LEED for Existing Buildings addresses whole-building cleaning and maintenance issues including chemical use, recycling programs, exterior maintenance programs and systems upgrades. A Silver Certification verifies that the recipient has achieved significant improvements in energy efficiency and water use, developed and implemented programs to dramatically reduce waste and that the recipient is facilitating sustainable purchasing. IBM gradually vacated the iconic 52-story mixed-use building in the 1980s, and it is now in the hands of Prime Group Realty Trust (PGRT), a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT).

In addition to the building’s HVAC overhaul, building management has initiated a suite of sustainable practices. A new purchasing policy was implemented, mostly for low-volatility organic supplies and recycled products. An automated technology system linked with energy-efficient lighting throughout the building was installed, and a recycling program was adopted that enables more than 300 pounds of recycled material per person per year.

Commendable as well is the building’s promotion of sustainability beyond the bounds of its glass and steel. Public transportation to and from 330 N. Wabash is increased through the utilization of daily shuttle service between the city’s rail stations. PGRT estimates the shuttle, which operates during rush hour, is used by 300 of the building’s users each day.

While the inclusion of a bold solar or wind system is ostensibly absent from the renovation, in its press release PGRT drummed that its efforts toward sustainability “[e]ngage and empower tenants to green their respective operations as well.”

Susan Hammer, General Manager of 330 N. Wabash, told GreenBeanChicago.com that the tenant participation rate in the recycling program is at 100 percent. Additionally, three of the building’s tenants have received LEED designation for commercial interiors in their office space. Hammer added that the renovation has helped 330 N. Wabash gain tenants.

“Leasing activity is up three fold since the renovation began,” she said.

It’s also worth noting that the renovation of 330 N. Wabash accompanies the building’s recent addition to the National Register of Historic Places and commendation from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency for its innovative use of modern materials, environmental awareness and straightforward structural expression. The building has received accolades for its operational and sustainable efforts including a BOMA 360 designation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s prestigious Energy Star certification and the 2007-2008 “The Office Building of the Year” (TOBY) Award in the over one million square feet category.

330 N. Wabash has proven that even icons look good in green.

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