At Energy-Minded U.S. Hotels, They’ll Turn the Lights Off for You

Rooms 75 cents
Hotel Rooms 75 cents…

Technology used to reduce energy use – seems like a good idea. Why isn’t this technique being used everywhere?

American hotels have long resisted key cards or other energy-saving systems. Energy was cheap, and hoteliers feared that guests, who routinely left their rooms with the lights and air-conditioner on, would see any check on their energy use as an inconvenience.

Hotel guests “have a feeling that they paid for the space and they can use it freely, and there’s a natural tendency not to be too conscious of their energy use,” said Brian Carberry, a director of product management for Leviton Manufacturing Company, of Melville, N.Y., which makes key card switches and other energy-saving devices for hotels.

But the aversion of hoteliers in the United States is slowly shifting as Americans have become more energy conscious and more states and municipalities have adopted rigorous building codes for energy use.

In 2014, the latest year for which figures are available, 29 percent of hotels surveyed by the American Hotel and Lodging Association had a sensor system in guest rooms to control the temperature, compared with less than 20 percent in 2004; and more than 75 percent had switched to LED lighting, up from less than 20 percent. Other energy-saving measures had also been more widely adopted.

Energy costs typically represent 4 to 6 percent of a hotel’s overall operating expenses, with the largest share for heating and air-conditioning.


Many major hotels in the United States have digitally controlled thermostats to monitor the temperature in guest rooms, said Pat Maher, a retired Marriott executive who is a consultant to hotels on energy management.

And a growing number, he said, have installed sophisticated systems that sense when a room is occupied. When a hotel guest enters a room, the device allows the temperature to be manually controlled within a certain range — from 60 to 80 degrees, for example — and then sets it back into an energy-saving mode when the room is vacant again.

Mr. Maher said such a system could save a hotel 20 percent or more in energy costs. And many utility companies, he noted, now offer rebates to hotels that have installed digital thermostats and other energy management devices.

(click here to continue reading At Energy-Minded U.S. Hotels, They’ll Turn the Lights Off for You – The New York Times.)

I fail to see the downside to this idea, other than the hotel’s investment in the new technology, but even that seems like it would be recouped sooner than later. Would you really care if the lights were off when you entered your hotel room? And the air-conditioning wasn’t cranked to 63ºF? I wouldn’t. 

Chicago Tourism Group Gets Creative With Ideas

This Much is True
This Much is True

Make no small plans, right? Choose Chicago is floating the idea of privately financed tourist attractions.

A group of Chicago tourism officials and civic supporters who want to give the city’s image and economy a boost is examining a slate of ideas for new attractions and amenities that include light shows playing off downtown skyscrapers, airborne glass cable cars running along the riverfront and designated luxury cars on the transit line to O’Hare.

The brainstorming is taking place under the auspices of Choose Chicago, the not-for-profit that serves as the city’s convention and tourism bureau. Bruce Rauner, its chairman, is leading the push, along with significant input from hotel investor Laurence Geller, Broadway in Chicago President Lou Raizin and Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts.

The broad outlines of the vision, which aims to draw as much as $30 billion in private investment, are expected to be disclosed Thursday at the annual meeting of Choose Chicago. Other ideas include plane rides along the lakefront and perhaps an architecturally stunning casino complex if gambling is approved for the city.

“We said, ‘Let’s be aspirational and aggressive, not just incremental,’ ” Rauner said. The aim is to boost visitor numbers from nearly 44 million in 2011 to 70 million annually, which, if achieved, would blow past the 50 million Mayor Rahm Emanuel would like to see by 2020.


(click here to continue reading Group gets ‘aggressive’ with ideas for tourism.)

About that Road to Happiness…
About that Road to Happiness…

So what are the plans under consideration? 

Among the ideas under consideration, according to Rauner and other sources:

  • Dramatic light show-type illuminations of city buildings and structures, such as bridges.
  • A luxury casino-anchored entertainment complex, along the lines of the Marina Bay Sands, a massive resort in Singapore designed by Moshe Safdie and built for more than $5 billion. Such a project would depend on getting state approval for a downtown casino.
  • Tourism “carriages” on the CTA between downtown and O’Hare International Airport, which would be set up as sorts of club cars, where travelers could get drinks and help with their luggage, among other amenities.
  • Glass-bubble airborne cable cars — with air conditioning in summer and heat in winter — that would take visitors along the river from Navy Pier to the point where Wacker Drive turns south.
  • A float plane port on Northerly Island, where tourists could take plane rides up and down the lakefront.
  • A jazz and blues hall of fame on the Near South Side
  • A lakefront botanic garden
  • A technology park for children
  • An architecture festival, similar to Biennale cultural festivals in Europe.

Pretty much all fun ideas in the abstract. I’m not crazy about a casino, and the City hasn’t even legalized gambling yet, but I have no moral objection to people throwing away their money, so why not make it architecturally significant? 

One does have to question the motives here, however. No organization is going to donate money to the City of Chicago without some strings attached. What are they? They claim to have enough private money to create all these marvels, but I would be very surprised if there weren’t some kick-ins from Chicago, financial or otherwise. Especially because Bruce Rauner has an agenda

National Train Day In Chicago

300 S Jackson - Ilford Delta 100
300 S Jackson – Ilford Delta 100

It might be fun to attend this, but on the other hand, I like to sleep in a bit on Sundays.

Union Station 225 South Canal Street, Chicago, IL 60606

When: 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Saturday, May 12 General Admission: Free

Now in its 5th year, National Train Day is back to celebrate train travel and the ways trains touch the lives of people with events across America. This year, festivities will highlight the unique perspective passengers enjoy as they take in the vastness and beauty of the American landscape, from cities big and small, to country vistas and everything in between, when traveling by rail. As part of National Train Day, each major market event features live entertainment, interactive and educational exhibits, kids’ activities, model train displays and tours of Amtrak equipment, freight and commuter trains, and notable private railroad cars.

(click here to continue reading National Train Day In Chicago.)

Got the Wine Country Blues
Got the Wine Country Blues

Upcoming Park Projects In Chicago

The Temperature is Rising
The Temperature is Rising

Pleased to read of these projects going forward despite the city’s budgetary woes. Investing in infrastructure is nearly always worth the expense, in the long run.

Several major projects remain on the city’s lakefront docket, aiming to complete the makeover that began nearly a decade ago and create an unbroken, 3-mile stretch of green jewels. Up first is a do-over for Navy Pier. Remade just a decade and a half ago for $225 million, the current version is widely seen as a pavement-heavy, retail-dominated tourist trap.

The new scheme, shaped by the pier’s owners and Gensler design, envisions new green spaces, sculptures and pools to go along with a redesign of the shopping arcade and family pavilion. A design competition is underway. Several favorites – including Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid and local architect and recent MacArthur “genius” winner Jeanne Gang – have already been eliminated.

The finalists, announced a couple months ago, include James Corner, designer of the High Line, the Danish firm BIG, and Chicago up-and-comer UrbanLab, which won several awards for its visionary Growing Water proposal a couple years ago.

The winning design is to be announced in mid-February, after a public viewing period of the finalists’ proposals, starting February 2. The project, which is scheduled for completion for the pier’s 100th anniversary, is budgeted around $200 million.

Just west of the pier, the Navy Pier Flyover is set to begin construction this year at a cost of $50 million. An elevated overpass for bikers and pedestrians, the flyover will increase safety and reduce the bottleneck on the busiest section of the lakefront trail, near Grand Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. Plans also include ramps and pathways leading to the pier itself and nearby DuSable Park.

A new section of Grant Park is also in the offing. New York architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates has laid out a detailed plan for the $30 million remaking of the park’s north end, expected to begin this fall. It includes a climbing mountain, a skating ribbon, rather than a rink, and a handful of meandering trails, green spaces and sculptures. The work should be completed in 2015.

(click here to continue reading A Green Revolution in Chicago – Design – The Atlantic Cities.)

Little Shop of Industrial Horror
Little Shop of Industrial Horror

and slightly more on the Grant Park project:

Long-awaited designs for renovating north Grant Park finally were unveiled at a recent meeting conducted by Gia Biaggi, director of park planning for the Chicago Park District. The meeting was one of several public gatherings sponsored by the Grant Park Conservancy (GPC) and the Chicago Park District (CPD) over the last 18 months.

The project will transform Grant Park between Randolph and Monroe Streets and from Columbus Drive east to the Cancer Survivors Garden. It grew out of the need to replace the interior of the Monroe Garage, which supports Daley Bicentennial Plaza. With the garage closed, workers have almost completed the interior work. In Phase II, they will repair the garage roof; because of its position below the park and beneath the plaza, they must remove almost 20 acres of park land to complete this phase.

“We decided on a new park design because of this,” said Bob O’Neill, GPC president. “We will begin breaking ground in the fall of 2012 and remove the garage when summer is over. Hopefully, they’ll start doing the park in 2013 and open in the spring of 2015. It’s an enormous project, but to do it right, we can’t do it any faster.”

The park will offer a variety of unusual amenities, to make it attractive to as many people as possible. The project budget is about $30 million, but O’Neill would like it increased by another $20 million from corporate and private sponsorship. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the landscape architecture firm chosen to design the project, strives for environmentally sustainable landforms offering “fluidity.”

One amenity under consideration is a waterfall that would become a wall of ice in winter. Van Walkenburgh explained his philosophy that a park can provide more than a network of paths by introducing rolling landforms that create diverse usage; have naturalistic planting; mitigate noise, wind, and sun for comfort; and offer untraditional play areas for children.

He wants to make “one of the very best playgrounds that America has” for kids in North Grant Park. Besides the traditional swings and play equipment, he plans to create innovative play spaces using green materials and nature to encourage exploration and imagination and add diversity to children’s enjoyment. The firm will fill the park predominantly with green space, water, natural materials, and landforms winding around and flowing naturally through the park.

Sculptures scattered throughout the winding paths will enhance the experience. North Grant Park will be both active and passive.

The active area will allow visitors to interact with the environment, explore nature, and “roll in the grass and play in the snow,” Van Walkenburgh said. The current design includes a climbing wall and ice skating; a circuit of trails will allow people of all ages to wander among trees and engage in imaginative play.

Passive enjoyment will come from benches allowing visitors to rest, observe, and “feel one with nature,” he said. “The intention is to mix it up and give people choices.” Van Valkenburgh noted the park’s urban component, an important feature that will offer cafes, beer gardens, green markets, and places where people of all ages can gather.

(click here to continue reading Gazette Chicago » Officials reveal Grant Park renovation plans to public.)

Some Kinda Bubble Boy
Some Kinda Bubble Boy

The bike trail gets pretty funky by Navy Pier, especially on a warm, summer day, so this is good news.

The Navy Pier Flyover, a proposed overpass that’s been touted as a safety boon for bikers and pedestrians on the heavily-traveled lakefront trail, is slated to get a big chunk of money that could make the project a reality.

The proposal envisions a half-mile bridge that would deliver walkers and pedalers across the Chicago River and over a thorny intersection at Grand Avenue and the lower level of Lake Shore Drive. Just west of Navy Pier, the junction is widely known as a magnet for high-risk traffic, channeling thousands of day commuters and tourists by the hour.

Running 18 miles in total, the trail begins at Hollywood Avenue on the city’s North Side and reaches down to 71st Street on the South Side. But the area near Navy Pier is one of the busiest parts of the whole path, and most in need of help, according to Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Brian Steele.

The flyover project, passed before the city’s plan commission in February, currently touts a price tag of $49.1 million. Part of that bill could be footed if the proposal makes its way into the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, a federally-funded reimbursement initiative that is managed by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and aimed at tackling transit-pollution issues in the region. CMAP, which oversees infrastructure and transportation projects in Northeastern Illinois, is considering forking over $11.3 million to help with the construction of the bridge in two phases. That’s just one of 350 applications — totaling requests of over $1.8 billion — that the agency is currently reviewing. The program has between $350 and $400 million dollars to dole out for projects running through 2016.

(click here to continue reading Congested lakeshore path could get cash for a revamp near Navy Pier | News | Skyline.)

Chicago Museums To Charge Out-of-Staters on Free Days

Art Institute Lions with Blackhawks Helmets

Not surprised, really. Tourists are often easy targets for revenue generating ideas (special taxes on hotels, car rentals, etc.). No matter the price, visiting the museums of Chicago is still worth the expense.

The Big Squeeze confronts every facet of the economy and will soon hit culture-craving visitors to Chicago from places like Des Moines, Berlin and Buenos Aires.

A nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization providing local coverage of Chicago and the surrounding area for The New York Times. More From the Chicago News Cooperative » Their free ride on free days is about to end. As it does, we can wonder how else we might monetize the city’s 40 million annual visitors.

Very quietly, a consortium of museums has persuaded the Illinois legislature to allow them to charge entry fees to out-of-staters on the 52 free museum days each year mandated by the General Assembly.

The bill, approved unanimously,  is on the desk of the Hamlet of Springfield, Gov. Pat Quinn, who presumably will need less time to mull whether to sign this one than he took agonizing over abolition of the death penalty.

Gary Johnson, president of the Chicago History Museum, led the charge as head of Museums in the Parks. That group comprises the Adler Planetarium, Art Institute of Chicago, DuSable Museum of African American History, Field Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Science and Industry, National Museum of Mexican Art, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, John G. Shedd Aquarium and Johnson’s home base in Lincoln Park.

The legislature’s jurisdiction originally involved museums on public parkland, back in an era in which the state gave them operating money. It no longer does, but some still get local help, like the aid Chicago’s museums get from the Park District.

Currently, Chicago’s museums must have 52 days when admission is free even to out-of-staters. They’ve argued for years that they labor under a de facto unfunded state mandate and, with budgets tight, need help.

(click here to continue reading Chicago Museums To Charge Out-of-Staters on Free Days –

and because of this:

Nationally, Chicago appears to offer more freebies than any big city, with the exception of Washington, where so many museums are subsidized by all of us. “We’re off the charts,” another Chicago museum leader told me.

Ex Parte

On a personal note, I moved to Chicago because the first time I visited here, as a broke-ass college student, with a vanload of friends hepped up on something or other, I went to the Art Institute when admission was whatever you wanted to pay1, and was so impressed that suddenly Chicago jumped to the top of the list of cities I wanted to live in. But I understand that in the 21st Century, art is not a priority, and has to pay its own way.

Queue Up

  1. I paid a dollar []

Reading Around on October 4th

Some additional reading October 4th from 10:05 to 12:48: