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The Greening of Willis Tower

By Anthonia Akitunde in News on Nov 1, 2009 6:45PM

Photo by fatalysis
Whether or not you still have sore feelings about one of Chicago's most recognizable landmarks being renamed by the Brits, there is at least one good thing coming from the switch: the building will receive an upwards of $300 million green makeover.

The project - led by local architecture firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture - hopes to remove the building's energy-hog past and remake it into "an environmental model for the world," the Tribune reports. Once the Sears Tower, Willis Tower is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

The firm was originally approached by the building's owners to create a zero-emissions hotel, but it also presented ways to green Willis Tower to meet the hotel's own needs, the report said. The project includes rooftop gardens, light automation and replacing 16,000 single pane windows with ones that are more energy-efficient.

"Buildings account for about 70 percent of all Chicago emissions, according to the Chicago Climate Action Plan," the report said. Plans to upgrade the building's plumbing will cut water usage by 24 million gallons per year. The window renovation will create an opportunity to use "smaller mechanical systems with a significantly lower environmental impact" and cut heating costs by 50 percent, according to estimates.

The greening of Willis Tower could be a step towards reducing the carbon footprint of the entire Loop. If 10 of the largest buildings in area were identified for similar greening projects, it would reduce the Loop's energy needs by more than 10 percent, said Sara Beardsley, senior architect at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill.

Beardsley is presenting the project all over the city and has plans to share the project with interested parties living as far as South Korea and China.