Worlds Largest Retail Building Goes Green - 26 March 2008
About a week ago, EcoGeek realized the efficiency improvements in America's buildings could save more energy than is used by all planes, trains, cars, and trucks in America. This vast energy savings won't come easily, but it must come. A commenter pointed out that it's important to focus on cars and trucks because they have shorter life spans, and thus efficiency improvements can be realized faster.
But buildings can also be retrofitted to be greener, and with great effect. In fact, since only 2% of buildings in America were built in the last few years, retrofitting is going to have to be a huge part of this. And it's pretty inspiring to see that we're starting with the largest retail building in the world, the Chicago Merchandise Mart.
The Merch Mart is HUGE, more than 4 million square feet. During the day, 20,000 people inhabit this single structure. It has its own zip code (60654).
When it was built, it was the largest building in the world.
But, due to the leadership of its owners, and the City of Chicago, the Merchandise Mart has a new spot in the Guinness book...as the largest Green Building in the world. It now uses 35% less water and 10% less energy than before the upgrades. And, for a building this size, the upgrades were significant:
- Most of the 4,000 windows were replaced.
- Water waste was tracked, to determine which of the 2,000 toilets needed to be replaced with more efficient ones
- Leaks in the air conditioning were tracked down and fixed, saving over $4,000 a year.
- Many of the buildings spaces were metered individually, to determine high energy use areas, and bill tenants accordingly.
- A supply shop for tenants was opened in the basement, making everything from low-vapor paints to high-efficiency bulbs available, inexpensively, to all tenants.
- Lighter carpets make rooms brighter, meaning less electricity is needed
- A Bulb-Eater in the basement eats fluorescent bulbs, contains their toxins, and produces waste bins that are recycled properly.
For more information on this absolutely fantastic retrofit of the World's Largest Retail Building, check out this article in Business Week. And for some high-res pictures of the Chicago Merchandise Market, keep reading.
By Hank Green