A great article on the recent renovation of the Christman Building in Lansing, Michigan- which will receive LEED Platinum certification under both the Core & Shell and Commercial Interiors standards.
The conversion of this old brick powerplant in Chicago to the Shaw Technology & Learning Center embodies just about everything we hold dear here at Urban Green: the intelligently adapted reuse of an existing building, the preservation of a community, and, of course, a green design. Doug Farr is well known for his landmark planning work and his fantastic book, Sustainable Urbanism, but his design firm, Farr Associates, has shown serious chops in this individual project. Don’t miss the slideshow that accompanies the Architect magazine article. The project is, well, a powerhouse.
Paul Goldberger points out that Jeanne Gang’s Aqua Tower in Chicago is even more technically ingenious than it looks. Much has been written about the shading provided for the glass facade by the wavy balconies but Goldberger points out that the balconies provide an even more striking benefit: they do such a great job breaking up the wind that the tower does not require a “tuned mass damper”- a structural feature of nearly every skyscraper, a dead weight of hundreds of tons that offsets the sway caused by high winds. I would love to see both how much this deduction from standard construction saved them in dollars as well as the savings in raw material.
It’s the sort of project we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the coming years, the greening of a mid-century building. In this case it’s the greening of a very large icon, Willis (nee Sears) Tower in Chicago.
The scale of this sort of project is unreal. Just walking through the numbers gets your blood pumping (if you are geek like me, I mean.) Annual projections include; saving 24 million gallons of water, a 50% reduction in the heating load, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by millions of pounds.
The other part of the story that will become familiar is the disconnect between the measures that are most effective and the measures that attract most of our attention. It is lovely and wonderful that the green roofs of such a tower attract ladybugs to the 90th floor (one wonders, though, if they came with the plantings.) But the yeomans work in terms of energy and water savings will be in less photogenic projects like replacing the 16,000 single pane windows, swapping the lighting for modern, vastly more efficient units and controls, and installing high-efficiency plumbing fixtures.
It’s great to see such a signature building get the green treatment. The American downtown is a veritable sea of office towers from the same generation, wrapped in the same poorly performing skin. Here’s hoping their owners are watching.
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