Green buildings have become the force “de jour” with many companies retrofitting their buildings to save energy and become part of the new “green” revolution.
The Chicago Merchandise Mart has gone green, retrofitting all its 4,000,000 square feet to be more energy efficient. Opened in 1930, the Mart is 4.2 million square feet contained in 24 stories. Over 20,000 people work in the Mart each day.
Due to the leadership of its owners and the City of Chicago, the Merchandise Mart is now the largest Green Building in the world. It uses 35% less water and 10% less energy than before the upgrades. And, for a building its 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.
While the upfront cost for upgrades may be seen as significant, the ultimate savings will compensate in years to come. Today’s newer buildings are already being built with green in mind, but thousands of older buildings exist all over our landscape – buildings that are suitable for retrofitting.
If the world’s largest retail building can “go green”, there isn’t any reason to delay retrofitting our older buildings to help meet our goal of energy conservation.