In 1997, after obtaining the site through a court battle with its former owner, the Chicago Department of Environment (DOE) set out to achieve the unfathomable: Turn a former brownfield into a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-certified property.
During the clean up process, and following the green mentality of the project, much of the salvageable rubbish was recycled and used for various ventures around Chicago, including using reclaimed crushed concrete to lay the foundation of the parking garage at Millennium Park.
Instead of using traditionally accepted construction methods, the Chicago DOE chose to go against the grain and erect an energy-efficient building using the absolute highest standards of green technology available as set forth by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
Eighteen months, $9 million and 600,000 tons of concrete and other illegally-dumped debris later, the 17-acre site was clean and ready for occupants.
The site, which opened to the public in 2002, became the home to three forward-thinking, green companies: Greencorps Chicago, the city''s community landscaping and job training program; WRD Environmental, an urban landscape design/build firm; and the Chicago Center for Green Technology (CCGT).
"While it is never impossible, getting all the partners to work together in the right timeframe is always very difficult," says Aaron Durnbaugh, deputy commissioner of the Natural Resources and Water Quality Division at the Chicago Department of Environment.
"Architects, tenants, builders, permits and others needed to be orchestrated to pull of the project in a timely manner. Hopefully everyone can find the time to allow for these kinds of convergences on their projects," continues Durnbaugh.
According to Durnbaugh, investment in urban locations, not sprawl, is what is needed.
In using their success as a model, the CCGT hopes other municipalities and organizations will follow suit and transform the thousands of acres of brownfield sites in America into usable, healthy, green space.
Having a LEED Platinum-certified building is a sure-footed step toward sustainability; however, since sustainability is an ongoing process with no set end, the CCGT has other environmentally preferable practices in place.
The CCGT instituted green cleaning practices that not only reduce the number of chemicals used to clean the building, but has also adopted cleaning chemicals and strategies that are less taxing on the building and its occupants.
To further ensure the quality of indoor air, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems with advanced filtration and air handling capabilities were integrated into the building''s design.
Only products that do not have volatile organic compound (VOC) off-gassing were used in the construction and furnishing of the building.
A stormwater runoff system was installed that uses 12,000-gallon cisterns to reclaim stormwater that would otherwise be unused for irrigation and other landscaping purposes.
And, as Durnbaugh notes, the system is performing better than can be expected.
The CCGT also boasts a green roof that absorbs rainwater and reduces heating and cooling costs.
With all of the water conservation efforts employed by the CCGT, more than half of the rainwater that falls on the site is retained.
Photovoltaic solar panels mounted on and around the building account for roughly 45 percent of the CCGT''s annual energy consumption, including the motion-sensitive lights that dim during the daytime and automatically shut off in unoccupied rooms.
The Chicago Center for Green Technology hopes to remain at the forefront of environmental stewardship through partnerships with likeminded organizations and through new age, green ingenuity.
"Great projects are the product of great partnerships," concludes Durnbaugh.