Innovation Conference, Day 1

THURSDAY, October 14, 2010 | BY
Last week I attended the first four hours that comprised Day 1 of the 2010 Architectural Record / Green Source Innovation Conference held at the McGraw-Hill Headquarters in midtown Manhattan. Starting off Day 1 was the conference welcoming address which included an announcement that keynote speaker David Owen would be rescheduled to the start of Day 2. As this marked the second time in the last year that I missed hearing David discuss his 2009 book, Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability, I sense that it might be time to actually read his book. With the other scheduled speakers in the audience, the program quickly proceeded with a presentation titled “Decarbonization of Central Cities: Chicago, Illinois” by Robert Forest of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and Roger Frechette of Positive Energy Practice. The presentation aptly addressed the conference themes:  innovationbig,super-greenbuildings, and cityscapes. The main premise of their talk is that improvements to the energy performance of cities are best achieved through an urban-scale analysis. Their premise is built upon achievements in the design of individual high-performance new buildings (example, Masdar HQ), greening of existing large buildings (example, Willis Tower), and the symbiotic relationship between buildings of different uses (example, Willis Tower and adjacent new hotel).
View of Chicago Loop parametric model

To assist in their urban analysis for the City of Chicago, a parametric model was developed that covered an approximately one square mile portion of the Chicago Loop. They described their parametric model as “BIM for cities” where each building contains data on its carbon use, energy use, electrical use, parking, age, gross square feet, and use. The parametric model is then used as a tool to both increase density while creating mix-use neighborhoods and reduce carbon use to meet Chicago’s Climate Action Plan and 2030 Challenge goals. The impact of proposed changes to an existing building or the addition of a new building within the study area can be easily compared to the base-line figures of the entire study area. As the existing buildings in the Loop study area account for 10% of Chicago’s carbon use but only 1% of the city land area there are significant potential reductions to be achieved. By increasing the density of the study area through the addition of mixed-use development, the analysis demonstrated an overall reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 3.90 metric tons to 0.78 metric tons within the study area, an 80% reduction.

Chart of step-by-step Chicago Loop carbon reduction

Not to be lost in the statistics is the goal to transform a large area of Chicago into several seamless live-work neighborhoods with all supporting services within short walking distances. With further development of the parametric model, it is believed that it will be used in the future to analyze other cities and help guide successful efforts to reduce carbon use in urban areas. With the plan for decarbonization of the Chicago Loop complete, it will be interesting to see if the use of urban-scale analysis is a factor in the realization of the City of Chicago’s carbon reduction goals.

2010 Architectural Record / Green Source Innovation Conference
Big and Super-Green:  From Buildings to Cityscapes
October 6 – 7, 2010
McGraw-Hill Auditorium
The McGraw-Hill Companies Corporate Headquarters
1221 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY


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