Chicago goes ‘low carb’

Chicago Central Area DeCarbonisation Plan, Chicago, United States

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture are underway with plans to reduce the windy city’s carbon emissions

The Chicago Central Area DeCarbonisation Plan is a comprehensive vision for helping the City of Chicago reach its carbon reduction goals in the downtown Loop. Working with the City of Chicago over much of 2009, the 25-member project team developed a database (including energy use, size, age, use, and estimated carbon footprint) of more than 550 buildings in the Loop. The team used that database, tied to a 3-D model, to research and develop the DeCarbonisation Plan, which interweaves energy engineering, architecture and urban design.

The plan is a roadmap for meeting the 2030 Challenge goal of 100% reduction in carbon emissions for new and renovated buildings by 2030. The team recognised that merely examining energy use in the Loop would not by itself be sufficient to address the city’s carbon reduction goals. The plan takes a more synergistic approach in which eight key strategies, combined with a parametric modeling tool, work together.

The first strategy, ‘Buildings’, investigates how existing structures can be upgraded to improve energy efficiency, increase the value of aging building stock and tap into the potential to transfer excess energy loads back to the grid, all while offsetting the need for new construction. Another strategy is ‘Urban Matrix’, which envisions increasing the residential density of the Loop by enhancing amenities, adding schools and services and converting aging office buildings to residential.

The other strategies include ‘Smart Infrastructure’, a look at how energy can be generated, stored, distributed and shared; ‘Mobility’, an assessment of transit and connectivity; ‘Water’, which examines how this critical resource is used and conserved; ‘Waste’, an assessment of citywide processes and systems for reducing, recycling and disposal; ‘Community Engagement’, which proposes various programs to engage citizens in the green agenda; and ‘Energy’, an examination of existing and new energy sources.

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