Des Plaines Casino pursues LEED® certification, green first among Illinois casinos

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Project Location: 3000 River Road, Des Plaines, IL

Owner: Midwest Gaming and Entertainment, LLC

Development Manager: Development Management Associates, LLC

Architect: Klai Juba

General Contractor: Pepper Construction

By Wendy Berger Shapiro

In December 2008, Midwest Gaming and Entertainment, LLC was awarded the exclusive right to apply for the 10th Illinois casino license. The company, led by Chairman Neil Bluhm, began plans for the most ambitious casino project ever to be built in Illinois.

From the beginning of the project’s planning phase, Midwest Gaming CEO Greg Carlin sought to include green elements in the project, with the stretch goal of LEED® Gold Certification. Carlin knew this was a very ambitious goal given the typical layout of a casino with no windows, low levels of lighting and no outdoor space. Carlin also knew that if successful in achieving LEED® Certification for the project, the casino would be the first LEED® Certified casino in Illinois, an important differentiating feature for the marketing of the casino complex and a benefit to both employees and customers.

The casino and entertainment complex will be located in Des Plaines, Ill., on 20 acres at the northwest corner of Des Plaines River Road and Devon Avenue. The site is minutes from O’Hare International Airport, very close to Chicago and easily accessible from throughout metropolitan Chicago.

The first phase of construction is scheduled for completion in fall 2011. A 147,000-square-foot casino will offer slot machines, gaming tables and dining and lounge venues, and will be served by a five-level 1,500 car parking structure.

Energy and water efficiency, recycling and the use of recycled and locally sourced materials are priorities for construction and operation. Planned green features include high-efficiency HVAC units with energy recovery, selective use of skylights and living green walls, a single-stream recycling program, efficient lighting fixtures/controls and a reflective white roof membrane. The landscape design uses native and drought-resistant plantings to eliminate the need for irrigation. The project also involves remediation of a brownfield site.

The heating, ventilation and air conditioning system for the building will consist of packaged roof-mounted air handling units with gas fired heating sections and air cooled DX cooling sections. These units will include 100 percent air-side economizer sections for free cooling when outdoor ambient conditions allow. The main casino area will be served by constant volume, variable temperature units.  These units will vary supply air temperature by reading the average temperature of a minimum of four thermostats per zone. These units shall vary the amount of outdoor air for demand control ventilation utilizing carbon dioxide sensors in the breathing zone and shall be capable of delivering up to 100 percent outdoor air. The casino air handling units will include energy air recovery wheels to pre-treat the outdoor air with energy transferred from the exhaust air.

The restaurant, lounge, warehouse and back of house office areas will be served with variable volume variable temperature units. Electric reheat variable air volume terminal boxes will regulate supply air volume and temperature to each individual zone based on the zone thermostat. High occupancy zones such as restaurants and conference rooms will be equipped with carbon dioxide censors in the breathing zone for demand control ventilation. Perimeter zones with exterior glass shall also be provided with electric baseboard radiant heaters with individual thermostats.”

The Des Plaines Casino site prominently fronts the Tri-State Tollway (I-294) north of O’Hare airport and sits across from forest preserve land and the Des Plaines River. In addition to site remediation efforts, the project will improve storm water runoff characteristics and add a percentage of green space, to achieve 15%, on the site. A road reconstruction and intersection improvement project being undertaken by the Illinois Department of Transportation will enhance mass transit and pedestrian access to the site.

Among the creative offerings, will be free valet parking to all guests who arrive in low-emission, fuel-efficient vehicles—a unique approach to providing priority space for “green” drivers. Bike racks will also be available, and casino employees will have access to changing facilities. Beyond several hundred construction jobs, the project is expected to create approximately 1,000 permanent jobs and generate more than $150 million in annual gaming tax revenue for the State of Illinois.

Midwest Gaming selected Chicago-based DMA to serve as development manager and to provide LEED consulting services for the Des Plaines Casino. DMA was chosen for its vast experience with large scale construction projects and strength in LEED® consulting. The Las Vegas firms FEA Consulting Engineers and RHR Consulting Engineers are providing engineering expertise, and Chicago-based dbHMS is serving as the LEED commissioning agent. The projects sustainability goals emphasize delivering an environmentally sustainable project to the City of Des Plaines and surrounding communities, achieving short- and long-term operational savings through energy efficiency, and creating a more environmentally friendly, unique and enjoyable experience for customers.

To accommodate smoking guests without compromising indoor air quality, the nonsmoking casino will offer contained outdoor terraces with seating, open-air screening, heating elements and independent exhaust systems for year-round comfort. Outdoor signage for the casino will make use of large-scale LED monitors and electronic murals. The project is an early adopter of energy efficient LED lighting for the parking structure which will reduce energy consumption, in this 24 hour 7 day a week facility.

CEO Greg Carlin says that he hopes that the Des Plaines Casino and Entertainment Complex will set a new standards for incorporating sustainable design elements into casinos.

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