Posts Tagged ‘energy efficient’

Recession Saves 1929 Daily News Building from Wrecking Ball

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

2riversideplazaThe recession has thwarted real estate billionaire Sam Zell’s plans to raze the art deco, 80-year-old, 26-story 2 North Riverside Plaza building that housed the Chicago Daily News until 1960 and replace it with an office tower.  Instead, Zell’s Equity Group Investments is beginning a multi-million dollar renovation of the building, which the advocacy group Preservation Chicago placed on its “Chicago Seven” list of endangered buildings in 2008.

The renovation includes basic fixes that appeal to prospective tenants, such as replacing old windows with energy-efficient ones and converting to electric heat from steam.  Aesthetic improvements include cleaning the sphinx-shaped building’s limestone exterior and renovating the art deco lobbies with their metal decorations inspired by flowers.

Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Blair Kamin expresses some disappointment in the building’s renovation plans, although he is pleased that the building is being saved for the time being.  According to Kamin, “Another reason for disappointment is that the renovation will introduce generic design elements, like the curving, vaguely art deco light fixtures that will hang in the historic lobbies.  And, as currently designed, the project will obscure dazzling, first-floor elevator-door decoration behind new walls meant to control pedestrian flow.  Why bring back precious art deco decoration on one floor if you are going to hide it on another?  Despite such faults, architecture buffs and historic preservationists should be pleased that they have won at least a temporary victory by staving off either a demolition or defacement of 2 North Riverside.”

Is Wind the New Oil?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

114975-004-10ac61f4After investing $16 billion in wind turbines, the United States has overtaken Germany as the world’s largest wind-power generator.  Wind power accounted for 42 percent of new generating capacity last year, an increase from just two percent four years ago. The American heartland’s sparsely populated states — from Texas to the Dakotas — are the ideal locations for wind turbines.

The momentum for wind power is slowing, though, and in July, T. Boone Pickens – oilman and clean-energy entrepreneur – called off plans for the world’s biggest wind farm in Texas.  His planned 687 turbines, valued at $2 billion, are now in search of a new location because the necessary transmission lines could not be built.  Harnessing wind power requires extensive grid infrastructure, which involves a complicated and lengthy state and municipal approval process.

The credit crunch also has caught up with the ability of wind farms to come online.  Wind is a capital-intensive business that requires long lead times.  While 2008 was a good year for wind power and installations are still moving forward, a slowdown is anticipated as firms fail to obtain the financing they need to purchase additional turbines.

Wind capacity grew by 50 percent last year, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).  In 2009, growth is expected to be around 20 percent.  The AWEA notes that although 2,800MW of new turbines were installed during the first quarter, just 1,200MW came online in the second.

Make Green Buildings Grow

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Buildings four stories and higher use 65 percent of electricity generated in the United States, according to a recent article on the website

Several states – notably California – are requiring all new government buildings to qualify for green certification.  Additionally, California is looking at the possibility of granting preferences to private building owners that are environmentally friendly when renewing leases with government agencies.

“All the people in the L.A. region want to come to my place to work,” said Peter Cho, chief engineer of the futuristic California Department of Transportation regional headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.  The 13-story green building, which occupies an entire city block, is attracting people with its sleek horizontal architecture, abundant natural lighting and healthier indoor air.

The building incorporates one monolithic solar-panel wall, which makes it 35 percent more energy-efficient than California state building codes require.  Another environmentally friendly element is the elevators that are programmed to skip two floors at a time to encourage building occupants to use the stairs.

Not unexpectedly, getting companies to build green is not easy.  According to the United States Green Building Council’s Lance Williams, “There is resistance to anything new, especially if it requires people to invest in something new or to believe in something new.  But there are people being converted…every single day.”

For their part, commercial building owners believe it is more effective to have direct financial incentives for going green.  Government’s green-building programs help in this way, and the Building Owners and Managers Association International is lobbying Congress to extend tax incentives to retrofit buildings to conserve energy.