Going Green

The last week of June turned out to be Sustainable Development Week unofficially in Chicago as a convergence of events spread the word on opportunities to be found in Going […]

The last week of June turned out to be Sustainable Development Week unofficially in Chicago as a convergence of events spread the word on opportunities to be found in Going Green — from submitting a federal grant application, to 500 attendees at It Pays to Go Green Expo, to hearing Van Jones speak on Green for All.

As Shelterforce went online with its summer issue — What Green Means for Communities — our organization, the Local Economic & Employment Development [LEED] Council, was submitting a federal grant application to the Office of Community Services (OCS) to encourage the hiring of low-income individuals by tenants of the Green Exchange, the redevelopment of a shuttered factory into a sustainable business community designed for the advancement of the green marketplace.

Our partnership with Baum Development on this project has advanced significantly since I wrote my article, Taking the LEED in Your Community, for this new issue of Shelterforce. Whether we are successful or not in winning this federal grant, the application process strengthened support among many public and community stakeholders for this innovative project to foster local economic and employment development by promoting green.

This Going Green message was heard by a surprising large audience of over 500 representatives from industry and business (the primary target participant), real-estate brokers and developers, economic development professionals, design build firms and contractors and a significance number of community leaders just interested in the topic of sustainable development, who attended the June 26 forum, It Pays to Go Green; An Expo for Chicago Industry. The City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development in partnership with Local Industrial Retention Initiative (LIRI) organizations, such as LEED Council, planned the expo to provide business-to-business exchange of experience as well as products and services.

One of the eight roundtables, “Learn from a Sustainable Development Team,” featured Steve Kersten, president of WaterSaver Faucet and vice-chair of LEED Council’s board, who has begun three projects that will all achieve a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design [LEED] silver rating. Steve led a practical discussion on the costs and benefits of using sustainable development and energy efficiency strategies as he expands his operations. He focused on five guidelines that he developed during the project. They are:
1. Recycle as much as possible — reusing a building and as many of its components keeps materials out of the landfill and utilizes the embodied energy used to create the buildings in the first place;
2. Pick the low-hanging fruit — ideas like preferred parking for hybrids, laying conduit in the parking lot to pull wires in the future for plug-in hybrids, use of energy-efficient lighting, capturing rainwater on site to avoid costly concrete retaining vaults, and use of sustainable materials (carpets, bamboo, recycled rubber flooring) when possible;
3. Build a really tight building envelope — this keeps heated/cooled air you paid to create in the building where it belongs;
4. Look very carefully at the cost/benefit analysis for components and systems — some ideas that seem good on their face simply don’t pay off; and
5. Use the ideas and tools of sustainable development to inform the manufacturing and office operations.

These guidelines are relevant to any redevelopment of existing buildings in your community.

“The Energy-Efficiency Financial Incentives” roundtable at the expo also offered valuable information on new programs that are currently available in Chicago to make business more energy-efficient and are likely to be replicated in other cities.

Katie McClain, Chicago city director for the Clinton Climate Initiative, discussed how the Initiative is working with building owners to retrofit existing buildings to save energy and money at no-up costs to the owners. The initiative has retained 10 energy engineering firms to do assessments and recommend improvements with guaranteed savings. Those savings can then be used to directly pay back market-rate bank loans that will be made available to owners to implement those recommendations.

Ed Sitar, economic development manager for ComEd, announced their new program to provide more than $200 million over the next three years in cash incentives to encourage business owners to invest in more efficient equipment and systems. Customers can now receive up to $100,000 in incentives per facility through May 31, 2009 on a first-come, first-served basis. Many electric utilities throughout the U.S. are now offering or designing similar programs.

Mayor Daley was the keynote speaker at the expo and spoke with passion about his vision to make Chicago one of the greenest cities in the country. He welcomed the business interest in sustainable development and noted that we must start training our workforce for green technology, saying “Green development must come with job training.”

This leads to the final convergence as Van Jones, founder and president of Green For All, brought his message to three events in Chicago during the last week of June and shared his vision of a national movement to build a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty. It was a personal and professional privilege to meet Van and to have the opportunity for him to interact with members of the Chicagoland Green Collar Jobs Initiative.

A few sentences here will not do justice to our common mission to embrace green as a local economic and employment development strategy. So check out Van’s interview on Public Television’s Chicago Tonight.

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