Chicago’s Sears Tower Goes Green


by Bushra Kabir, via Green in the City, 

The Willis Tower, Chicago’s 1,451-feet-tall global icon, is creating its own green power generation.

The first building in the United States taller than 100 stories, the Willis, formerly known as Sears Tower, is undergoing a five-year renovation project to become environmentally efficient. The plan includes the construction of a 50-story hotel right beside the tower, which also will be built with the environment in mind.

The transformation is being designed by Chicago-based Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture. The project will cost $350 million, resulting in 80 percent less electricity consumption. There will be changes involving its exterior walls, mechanical systems, lighting, vertical transportation, water supply, hot water, roofs, operations and maintenance. The most visible changes will be noticed on the roofs of the building, which will consist of gardens, solar panels and wind turbines.

“The changes made and benefits realized through the bold sustainable initiatives at the tower serve as an example that a sustainable future is more than a concept, it is within our reach,” John Huston of American Landmark Properties, who represents the building ownership, said on the Facility Blog of Today’s Facility Manager.

A tremendous amount of energy is used in indoor heating especially for large commercial buildings like the Willis Tower. Therefore, part of the plan is to reduce the amount of heating energy consumed by replacing the 16,000 single-paned windows with double-paned windows that have insulating films in between. The window insulation of the 110-story building will promise cooler summers and warmer winters. The successful completion of this change will result in the usage of 60 percent less heating energy.

These days even in daytime, the lights in most buildings are always on. The new green plan for the Willis Tower will find a more energy-efficient and advanced way to power those lights, and also let in more of the natural daylight so that the electric lights are not needed at all. The installation of solar panels on the roofs will help bring in more of the natural energy to run the mechanical systems in the building and save 40 percent of lighting energy in the process. Just as much water usage will be reduced through water-efficient fixtures that will be included. Even the 104 elevators and five escalators will be upgraded to cut their energy usage by half.

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