Many of you are no doubt familiar with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system and the idea that it’s typically applied to buildings as well as neighborhoods or campuses. But how does an entire city become LEED certified? Chicago has the answer to that question, or least a solution that has proved successful. This past July, Chicago became one of just seven LEED-certified cities in the world.
Among the varying agendas from government agencies, developers, architects, contractors, and the community, there is one thing they all have in common – a general push toward sustainable design and construction and pursuing LEED or other rating systems. Chicago is no different. Thanks to the redeveloped Chicago Sustainable Development Policy (SDP), the City has transformed into one of the greatest (if not the greatest) cities in the world and is now a leader in the push for buildings and sites to reduce their impact on our environment.
The SDP has been around since 2004, but it was recently revamped in 2016. The newest updates went into effect last year. The recent revision has some serious implications for design teams considering their next project. Applicable projects include: all planned developments, TIF (tax-increment financing) projects receiving more than $1 million in funds, and affordable, multi-family housing projects receiving a variety of financial assistance from the City. Once a team determines whether they need to comply with the policy, there are two options available to them:
- Follow a list of sustainable design strategies provided by a menu on the Department of Planning and Development’s (DPD) website. The strategies are broken up into groups similar to other sustainable rating systems, including: Health, Energy, Stormwater, Landscapes, Green Roofs, Water, Transportation, Solid Waste, Work Force, and Wildlife. The team must choose from the available strategies and come up with a plan for their project that accrues the required point total: 25 points for moderate renovation, 50 points for substantial renovation, and 100 points for new construction.
- Couple a separate sustainable rating system with the menu items from the DPD list. Additional certification options include: LEED, Green Globes, Living Building Challenge, Enterprise Green Communities, or PassiveHouse. Pursuing one of these rating systems gives the project a baseline of points to start with, and then the team can accruie the remaining points the the DPD menu items.
What makes the sustainable strategies menu unique is that it encourages a higher level of sustainable design. When designing to these standards, it encourages sustainability levels that line up well with already-established sustainable rating systems. This in turn has an overall positive effect on new projects in the City of Chicago, which ultimately allowed Chicago to make a measurable impact in overall construction projects throughout the city.
A great example of how the SDP is positively impacting and improving buildings in Chicago is a current project Primera is working on – ComEd’s Chicago North Facility and corresponding warehouse project. The main facility is pursuing the coveted LEED Platinum certification. While the warehouse is not pursuing certification through a particular rating system, it was still required to go through the SDP process. After completing the checklist and making some adjustments/improvements to the warehouse, it is very likely that it’s design will be eligible to achieve LEED certification (if the project was applicable).
The SDP has been enhancing the sustainable performance of projects in the City of Chicago for years. It continues to push the baseline for new construction and renovation projects. Moreover, the City is able to measure how these sustainable design practices improve the way we build and operate on a large scale.