Chicago welcomes an addition to its already green skyline

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Location: 155 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60606

Owner: JBC Opportunity Fund II & III / Morgan Stanley Real Estate

Developer: The John Buck Company / Brijus Property Company

Architect: Goettsch Partners

General Contractor: Bovis Lend Lease

Structural Engineer: Magnusson Klemencic Associates

Mechanical Engineer: Hill Mechanical Group

Owner-advocate for LEED Management: Environmental Systems Design Inc.

Project Manager: Raphael Carreira—The John Buck Company

Certification: U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold Certified (Core & Shell), City of Chicago Green Permits Process approved

By Garratt Hasenstab, LEED AP+ BD&C

According to the latest figures from the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council), Chicago has more LEED-certified buildings than any other city in the country. As of 2009, the council reports that 88 projects in Chicago have earned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Taking second on the list is Portland, Ore., with 73 LEED-certified buildings followed by Seattle, Wash., with 63.

The newest addition to the magnificent Chicago skyline, 155 N. Wacker Drive, stands 46 stories tall with almost 1.4 million square feet of office space, and continues Chicago’s proud tradition of large-scale green building prowess. The first thing you’ll notice about this new Class A+ property is the developer’s attention to design aesthetic. The signature “grand arcade” lobby is clad in several stories of marble and glass, providing a striking and dramatic entrance.

This office tower is the product of a highly-integrated design and building team that has recently completed two other LEED-certified buildings in the same area—111 S. Wacker Drive and 1 N. Wacker Drive. Building on experience and knowledge from previous projects, “this team sought to build the best product in the marketplace by leveraging better and smarter processes,” said Raphael Carreira, project manager.

Some of the greenest elements of this project have everything to do with its location and site background. Positioned at the corner of Wacker Drive and Randolph Street, the building is in the heart of Chicago’s downtown business district. Its location is also between two Metra stations and several CTA stops, enabling the building’s occupants to take advantage of Chicago’s efficient public transportation options, reducing the impact of commuting on the environment.

Three economically obsolete buildings previously occupied the site, but the developer took great care to undertake a sustainable approach to their demolition, recycling as much of the viable materials from the site as feasible prior to construction of the new structure.

The development team, in cooperation with the City of Chicago, also considered the footprint of the existing site as an opportunity to create a new open area they’ve called a “pocket park”. The park consists of approximately 9000 square feet of outdoor congregating space with grass features, city screen spaces and seating set aside so that the building’s occupants, city-goers and passers-by may stop, relax and enjoy this bustling urban locale.

Another green design feature you’ll notice from the sidewalk are the glass curtain walls extending the full height of the building. This high-performance building envelope system is not only visually captivating from the outside, but in conjunction with interior design dimensions, floor layouts and column locations, this floor-to-ceiling glass in all interior spaces allows for a great deal of natural daylight to reach into even the inner-most office spaces. This dramatically reduces the need to utilize artificial light, thereby having a positive impact on the energy consumption of this large office building.

Additionally, Carreira enlightened us about the extent to which modern glass technology has evolved, enabling the owner and operator of the building to greatly increase control of the its indoor environment through employing low-emissivity glass, or insulated glazing. This reflects thermal radiation and inhibits its emission, reducing heat transfer through the glass. In turn, this reduces the impact of Chicago’s significantly broad climate spectrum, keeping the building warm in the winter and cool in the summer with greater energy efficiency.

In keeping with this endeavor to greatly reduce energy consumption, the development team decided to incorporate green roof systems in order to reduce energy demand from heating and cooling. The systems will also reduce the urban heat-island effect that is produced by urban development’s modification of the land surface, which uses materials that effectively retain heat. Waste heat generated by energy usage is a secondary contributor.

Carreira noted another often-overlooked yet commendable goal of seeking LEED certification.

“Offices house people, and it is our goal to build a welcoming and appealing place for the occupants to spend their time”.

A healthier, more comfortable, better-ventilated, brighter indoor environment has been proven to improve employee productivity and reduce interruptions such as sick leave.

The development has been successful in achieving LEED certification for Core and Shell, but the developer is not stopping there— tenants have been encouraged through a “cooperative process” to build their office spaces in accordance with the USGBC’s LEED for Commercial Interiors rating system, making it much easier for the tenants to contribute to the overall sustainability goals of this project.

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