B12 Solipsism

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Chicago Center for Green Technology

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Took a trek out to the very cool Chicago Center for Green Technology at 445 N. Sacramento Boulevard yesterday to inquire about green roofs and to solicit advice re: Neighbor Space parks.

Chicago Green Tech’s building was originally constructed in 1952. Since then a number of different companies have owned the building. When it came to the attention of the Chicago Department of Environment (DOE) in 1995, the building and its 17 acres were owned by Sacramento Crushing, a company which had a permit to collect limited construction and demolition debris. The Department of Environment became involved because Sacramento Crushing had gone far beyond the scope of its permit and had filled all 17-acres with illegally dumped debris. The site was littered with 70-foot high piles of rubble, one of which was so dense it sank 15 feet into the ground.

The Department of Environment successfully fought Sacramento Crushing in court and not only closed down their operation but also became the owner of the site itself. It was then DOE’s job to clean up this Brownfield. The clean up took 18 months to complete and cost about $9 million. In this process, the site was cleared of over 600,000 tons of concrete, which took 45,000 truck loads to remove. The city recouped some of the clean up cost by selling the concrete and other materials to recycling firms and to other city departments for use in their projects. For example, some of the crushed concrete was used by the Chicago Department of Transportation to lay the foundation of the parking garage at the new Millennium Park.

In 1999, DOE was the proud owner of a cleaned site and vacant building. Rather than simply renovating the building using traditional methods, DOE seized the opportunity to create an energy efficient building using the highest standards of green technology available. The Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment formed a design team for the project. This team of local architects, led by Farr Associates, designed the building using a set of guidelines established by the US Green Building Council called LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design).

[From Chicago Center for Green Technology – History]

Apparently, some of the mounds of debris were over 70 feet tall, and compressed the ground below another 15 feet. Anyway, the building is worth a visit if you are into such things. Plus they gave us each 2 LED light bulbs.

Vegetative Green Roof – Chicago Center for Green Technology. Wild chives, succulents, and clover, I believe.
Vegetative Green Roof - Chicago Center for Green Technology

Vegetative Green Roof closeup- Chicago Center for Green Technology
Vegetative Green Roof closeup- Chicago Center for Green Technology

We didn’t get much help regarding Neighbor Space parks and City of Chicago plant and soil resources, but we learned a lot about green roofs. I’d love to be able to install a meadow on our roof like this one, but the roof would need to be able to support 40 lbs/sq. foot, which might not be easily accomplished. Maybe, though, so a next step would be to ask a structural engineer to investigate. There are also the smaller modular vegetative green roof options: a box about 12 inches by 12 inches, filled with a few inches of soil and covered with succulents. You would use as many as you needed, they weigh less, and are easier to remove if necessary. The meadow concept is more fun though – I’d be napping up there right now if I could.

Another thought would be to install a rain water cistern and drain system, so as to utilize the water to keep plants moist at the street level (where our Neighbor Space park allegedly will be located).

Solar Panels – Chicago Center for Green Technology
Solar Panels - Chicago Center for Green Technology

Solar panels would be cool, even if the technology isn’t advanced enough to supply all of our electric needs, we still could ameliorate some of our electric costs (and have backup power if ComEd has problems as they so often do).

Money to pay for it all? Ha, that’s what home equity loans are for. There are a few tax credits available (Federal, some state programs, even less at the City level) for installing solar and green roofs, but the national demand is much greater than the supply of money available, so one’s application has to be blessed with the support of somebody politically connected to get approval. Got to fund wars in the desert, don’t you know; we as a country don’t really want to encourage sustainable living. Unfortunately.

Written by Seth Anderson

June 19th, 2008 at 2:05 pm

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