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LEED / Sustainability / Technology
December 2012 A Clean Sweep

Then And Now: The Chicago Center For Green Technology

Celebrating a decade of sustainable decadence.

December 03, 2012
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We first profiled the Chicago Center For Green Technology (CCGT) in the July 2009 issue of Cleaning & Maintenance Management magazine.

Now, with the conclusion of the 2012 ISSA/INTERCLEAN North America, which was once again held in the windy city, we wanted to provide an update on this interesting endeavor.

Getting There: A Brief History

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 cleanup 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.ccgt logo

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 DOE. “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.”

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 spaces.

Sustainability Specifics

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.

leedA stormwater runoff system was installed that uses 12,000-gallon cisterns to reclaim water 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 CCGT hopes to remain at the forefront of environmental stewardship through partnerships with likeminded organizations and through new age, green ingenuity.

Durnbaugh notes, “Great projects are the product of great partnerships.”

Ten Years Down The Road

Some 3,850-plus days since its May 4, 2002, opening, the CCGT continues to serve as the most comprehensive green design educational resource in the Midwest.

Through educational programming and training, research and demonstration, the CCGT promotes and advances sustainable homes, workplaces and communities to enhance the quality of urban life in Chicago and across America.

As the most comprehensive green design educational resource in the Midwest, the CCGT is able to promote and advance sustainable homes, workplaces and communities through its innovative offerings, which include the Green Tech U seminars, guided and self-guided tours, the Green Building Resource Center and more.

Open to the public six days a week, the CCGT features rotating exhibits and the Green Tech U Education Program, which provides an opportunity to meet like-minded people, expand professional networks and increase knowledge of issues related to sustainability, green building and public policy.

The guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more and are offered every day of the week except Sundays, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Green Tech U also offers certificates of acknowledgement to all participants who demonstrate a commitment to ongoing learning and development in this field.

Certificates can be earned in such subject areas as:

  • Architecture
  • Building and construction management
  • Engineering
  • Green business
  • Green home and garden
  • Interior design.

As the green and sustainable movement picks up speed and gains traction, the CCGT continues to grow and develop.

The CCGT recently completed their submission for certification under LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM).

Given CCGT's green credentials, it was chosen as the pilot to be the first city facility to undergo LEED-EBOM certification.

The hope is for the CCGT to function as a green business indicator and, as such, actively pursues tenants who are in the green business and non-profit environmental arena.

“We are looking at small-scale opportunities such as renting unused individual desks to larger-scale opportunities such as renting larger raw industrial space in the building,” states Sean Wiedel, assistant commissioner for the Chicago Department of Transportation. “We are exploring innovative financing techniques that will allow potential tenants to pay market rate rent for the facility. The city would then keep approximately 20 percent of the rent to cover operating expenses and the rest would be plowed back into the facility and programming, an arrangement that could potentially be an innovative model for the city to pursue.”

10 yearsAs the CCGT matures into its second decade of providing Chicago residents with high-quality, sustainability-focused programming, the city of Chicago has partnered with an expanded new team to lead the CCGT, the city’s destination for green technology resources and training.

In an effort to focus on connecting with the green jobs movement that is sweeping the region, a new management team will concentrate on serving the professional development needs of residents in all stages of their careers.

This new management team is a dynamic and seasoned group, consisting of WRD Environmental, Delta Institute and Quercus Consulting.

“This effort is as much about ‘putting tech back in green tech’ as it is about making Chicago a more sustainable and economically viable city,” asserts Wiedel. "The 10th anniversary of the CCGT was marked in grand fashion, with more than 400 attendees and exhibitors hailing from all walks of life."

All of those involved point to the continued — perhaps growing — relevance of the center, and all look forward to continuing the work that began 10 years ago.

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