Award: Chicago Central Area Decarbonization Plan

The team compiled a database of information that helped determine carbon emissions for buildings in the Chicago Loop. These emissions can now be visualized on a color spectrum from red (very high emissions) to dark green (low emissions).

One of the information factors collected for each building was age: not to determine whether structures need to be torn down, but rather to investigate possibilities for reuse. Office buildings built prior to 1950 could potentially be reused as residential towers.

As for buildings from the second half of the last century, these inefficient air-conditioned boxes are most likely in need of efficiency upgrades.

Buildings completed between 1975 and 2000.

Buildings built from 2000 to the present.

Chicago is already known for having a lot of green roofs, and the team suggests taking that to the next level: greening every roof surface possible. Because the typical Loop building is a tall tower with a relatively small footprint, there isnt enough room to install photovoltaics that could make a dent in energy usage. So reducing heat island effects to relieve the loads on air-conditioning systems is a more effective use of roof space.

This map of the Loop does more than outline streets; it highlights a proposed system of pedways to encourage walking. This over- and underground system would include access to public transit hubs and a green corridor.

To reduce carbon emissions from cars, the team encourages pedestrian traffic. Probably the most significant part of the plan is to restrict vehicular traffic on Monroe Street (one of the Loop's main east-west thoroughfares) to two lanes, reserving the other half of the street for a public greenway with pedestrian-only access.

The plan doesn't call for green roofs just to blanket the city in sedum. There are other ways to put that new space to good use. In this example, a school (complete with outdoor play areas) occupies one rooftop--suggesting a new way to develop a dense downtown district.

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