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Jul 062009

By Ashley Phillips
Green Right Now

The Sears Tower is undergoing a renovation of massive proportions. As the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, the Sears Tower is already relatively eco-friendly, meeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria. But now it is aiming to be even greener.

American Landmark Properties, owner of the Sears Tower, has partnered with Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture to design substantial green renovations. The five-year project, estimated to cost $350 million and create 3,600 jobs, aims to turn the iconic tower a green leader whose example can be emulated by skyscrapers around the world, according to a website created to detail the changes.

The renovations focus on reducing energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. Water usage by 24 million gallons per year and electricity usage will be cut by 80%, for a total energy savings of 68 million kWh per year, according to a press release.

The 1,450 foot tall Sears Tower, at 233 S. Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago, will undergo renovations in every area of the building from the ground up:

  • All 16,000 single-pane windows will be replaced with new glazed windows that will reduce heating costs. The 104 elevators and 15 escalators will be modernized to require less energy to power.
  • Lighting systems will be improved through daylight harvesting, a method that automatically dims lighting based on the amount of sunlight coming into the room.
  • Water savings will include an upgrade in restroom features, a condensation recovery system, and water efficient landscaping.
  • The buildings gas boilers also will be upgraded to new systems that use fuel cell technologies.
  • Solar panels, that will heat the buildings water, will be installed on the roofs. The roof also will be covered by 30,000 – 35,000 square feet of gardens. Wind turbines will be placed atop the building as an alternative energy source.

The 36-year-old Sears Tower is not only blazing a new, greener trail, its managers are trying to educate the public as well. The renovations include plans for a Sustainable Technology Learning Center. This will be open everyone, and is intended help people learn about importance of saving energy and money, and how to do it.

The renovations, beginning immediately, also include a luxury green 500-room hotel that will be located next to the Sears Tower.

(Photo credit: Sears

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