The U.S. General Service Administration’s (GSA’s) state-of-the-art Chicago Federal Building has received LEED for Commercial Interiors certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. It covers the $67 million renovation of more than half of the building, constructed in 1911.
Jim Lyman, project manager with HDR, advised that GSA required every new building and significant renovation to become LEED certified. Such commitment to sustainable solutions facilitated the certification process. Robert Theel, GSA’s chief architect for the Great Lakes Region, said that a vital part of the mission was to reduce consumption and costs through careful material selection as well as to integrate the energy efficiency into the building designs, preserving businesslike work environments.
Renovating a historic building to meet sustainable-design standards is very challenging. In a unique way the changes, needed to meet GSA’s sustainable requirements, restored the building to its original loft character. One area, where the sustainable design and historic preservation goals could be jointly met, was in the ceiling. The original concrete structure, hidden by renovations, was exposed. This gave the room more appealing indirect lighting, and exposed the full height of the large windows, allowing natural daylight to penetrate deeper into the office space.
Perhaps the most significant sustainable alteration in the building was the addition of an underfloor air distribution system (UAD), which is particularly energy efficient. All energy efficiency measures used on the project were proven to be cost effective over a ten-year life cycle. Other sustainable highlights of the renovated building include low-flow toilets helping to reduce water consumption, paints and adhesives low in volatile organic compounds, areas for the collection of materials for recycling and the absence of on-site parking to minimize automobile congestion and pollution.