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Chicago DeCarbonization Plan

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The Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan aims not only to reduce the environmental impact and carbon emissions of the downtown but to improve the overall quality of life of the city’s urban environment.

There are many ways to reduce carbon emissions, and numerous cities have made commitments to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gases. Some plans focus on energy production, some on transportation and others dwell on solid waste and recycling. While this study examines all of the carbon sources characteristic of the urban condition, the goal here is not simply to reach a reduction number that is calculated from an applied set of assumptions.

The Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan is a beginning process for maintaining the economic and cultural vitality of the urban core, from an energy and carbon perspective. The continued viability of cities and urban living is a core principle in the long-term idea that population growth can continue without its negative impact to the environment becoming detrimental to the planet in the form of global warming.

It is therefore critical that our cities are not only decarbonized, but also continue to develop as great places where people can live happy, healthy lifestyles with a minimized environmental footprint. The DeCarbonization Plan proposes a variety of methods for reducing carbon including aggressive upgrade of the existing building stock and urban fabric.

There are, on the surface, simpler ways to reduce carbon which should first be discussed. A wind farm or large scale photovoltaic array can power hundreds of buildings. A single nuclear plant can power an entire region. Why, then, is there a need for a decarbonization plan for the city? If it were a simple matter of replacing greenhouse gas emitting fossil plants with renewable energy resources, urban decarbonization would not be necessary. However, if no urban decarbonization happened and the energy issue were simply solved by the creation of more power plants, many opportunities for the improvement of the urban environment and of social issues would be lost, and cities like Chicago might be allowed to decay over time.

These social issues, which can be solved by decarbonization, include all the complexities of carbon production that are bound up in the city. For example, an aging building stock currently consumes much more energy than is necessary, and needs to be upgraded not only for its emissions but for its future economic viability. Commuters currently drive from the suburbs to the city on infrastructure that is costly to maintain, and over-crowded. Stormwater currently pours off of hard surfaces into the water treatment system where it could be recovered, and unshaded surfaces in the city allows high temperatures to occur in a localized area. The Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan seeks to go beyond the technological fix and advance Chicago’s global leadership position not only as a green city but also as a continuing model of architectural and urban innovation.

1 august 11 | AS+GG Press Release
Images Publishing Releases Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture's 'Toward Zero Carbon: The Chicago Central Area Decarbonization Plan'
Images Publishing Group has released Toward Zero Carbon: The Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture... MORE

spring/summer 11  | One
(Re)Conceiving Cities
Whether building a city from scratch in Abu Dhabi or retrofitting the Chicago Loop, architect Adrian Smith says 21st-century cities need to be clean, grean, and user-friendly... MORE

17 jan 11  | Architect's Newspaper
Smart Grid City
Chicago invented the skyscraper. Can it pioneer the best urban sustainable-energy strategies as well?   MORE

dec 10 | GreenSource
The rise of retrofit
Chicago shows what's next and what's needed to meet the city's ambitious performance goals... MORE

18 oct 10 | World Architecture News
WAN Awards 2010: Urban Legends
Tonkin Zulaikha Greer with JMD Design & City of Sydney and Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture named winners of WAN AWARDS 2010 Urban Design sector... MORE

fall 2010 | McGraw-Hill Construction
Innovation Conference 2010
The Decarbonization of Chicago... MORE

aug 10 | Architect Magazine
2010 R+D Award in Sustainability: Chicago Central Area Decarbonization Plan
By now, most architects realize that in order to mitigate global warming, we need not only build more efficient new buildings, but also retrofit the existing building stock... MORE

apr 10 | Perspective
Building for change
In a world struggling to deal with climate change, Chicago has set the pace with a bold carbon reduction plan – in which Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture is playing a critical role... MORE

25 feb 10 | Eco-Structure Magazine
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture offers a low-carb plan for Chicago
Moving forward on the Chicago Climate Action Plan in conjunction with city government, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill (AS+GG) has released the first phase of its Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan... MORE

22 feb 10 | inhabitat.com
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill hatch massive plan to DeCarbonize Chicago
Renowned architecture firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill (AS+GG) recently completed the investigation phase of a massive plan to “decarbonize” Chicago’s Loop... MORE

18 feb 10 | World Architecture News
AS+GG completes first phase of Chicago DeCarbonization Plan
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture has completed the first phase of a comprehensive Decarbonization Plan for the downtown Loop area of Chicago... MORE

feb 10 | AS+GG Press Release
AS+GG Completes first phase of the Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture has completed the first phase of the Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan, a comprehensive vision for helping the City of Chicago reach its carbon reduction goals in the downtown Loop... MORE

29 oct 09 | Architectural Record
Adrian Smith Develops "Decarbonization" Plan for Cities
A Chicago architecture firm is producing a holistic planning approach to reduce carbon emissions in dense urban cores... MORE

City of Chicago

Greg Hummel and Karl Marschel, Briyan Cave LLP
Commonwealth Edison
Environmental Systems Design, Inc.
Peoples Gas


Illinois AIA, Daniel Burnham Honor Award


AIA Chicago, Design Excellence, SustainABILITY Award
American Architecture Foundation, Sustainable Cities Design Academy Award


National AIA Honor Award, Regional and Urban Design
American Architecture Award


R+D Award for Sustainability, Architect Magazine
WAN Award, Urban Design