Green Roofs - Living Architecture Monitor - Fall 2017 - 23
CASE STUDY # 1:
A LEADER IN SUSTAINABILITY: CHICAGO, IL
Chicago, IL was one the first jurisdictions in North America to implement a sustainable development policy for buildings. The Sustainable Development Policy was first created in 2004 as a way to encourage the
adoption of sustainable building practices. The initial policy required projects receiving public funding or
needing special approval to achieve a recognized green building certification (LEED, ENERGY STAR,
and Green Globes), install a green roof, or exceeds tormwater ordinance performance requirements.
In 2016, the Sustainable Development Policy was completely overhauled to reflect changes
in the market, and increase flexibility in meeting the City's sustainability goals. The yearlong
review process was completed by Chicago's Department of Planning and Development with the
help of an advisory committee and extensive community /stakeholder outreach.
Today, Chicago has the highest percentage of LEED certified or ENERGY STAR office buildings (66 per cent) of the 30 largest real estate markets in the US. In 2016, Chicago went up 6.5 per
cent in green office space square footage (CBRE, 2017). For over a decade Chicago also had the
highest number of green roof installations annually, before being taken over by Washington, D.C.
As of 2013, Chicago had over 500 green roofs totaling more than 5.5 million square feet.
The new Sustainable Development Policy allows development teams to choose from a menu
of strategies that can be tailored to fit the project's characteristics. Each strategy is assigned a point
value. New construction projects are required to achieve 100 points and moderate and substantial
renovations of existing buildings are required to reach 25 or 50 points respectively depending on the
scale of the renovation. Moderate Renovation are projects that include partial or minor upgrades to
the building systems and minor repairs to the exterior envelope. Substantial Renovations are projects
that include new and/or upgraded building systems and extensive repairs to the exterior envelope.
The updated policy provides two compliance paths. One path requires projects to achieve the
required number of points from the Menu of Sustainable Strategies (Figure 1). This path does
not require the building to be certified through a pre-existing building certification program
such as LEED, Passive House or the Living Building Challenge. The point system strategies fall
under 10 categories: Health, Energy, Stormwater, Landscapes, Green Roofs, Water, Transportation, Solid Waste, Workforce and Wildlife.
Green roofs that cover 50-100 per cent of a building's net roof area are worth 10 points, and green
roofs that cover 100 per cent of a buildings net roof area are worth 20 points. Green roof systems can earn
an additional 10 points if the green roof growing media is at least 6 inches deep or if the plant list for the
green roof contains at least 30 genera as plant diversity improves the long-term viability of the green roof.
Deeper systems generally provide more stormwater benefits and improve the performance of plants.
The second path is for projects that are choosing to achieve building certification. Points
are automatically given to these projects depending on the type of building certification being
achieved and also the level of certification in some instances. Buildings that choose the certification path are still required to earn additional points, except for projects that are being certified
under the Living Building Challenge program.
FIND OUT MORE
If you are interested in participating in the work of the Policy Committee please contact Emma Tamlin,
CBRE (2017). 2017 National Green Building Adoption Index; Chicago Department of Planning and
Development (2017). Strengthening Chicago's Sustainable Development Policy. USGBC Webinar:
Options for Incentivizing Voluntary Above Code Construction.
Chasen, Emily (2017). Chicago Grabs Lead in Green Office Buildings, Study Shows. Bloomberg.com
Chicago Department of Planning and Development (2017). Strengthening Chicago's Sustainable
Development Policy. USGBC Webinar: Options for Incentivizing Voluntary Above Code Construction.
Michael Berkshire is the Green Projects Administrator, City of Chicago and Emma Tamlin is the Special
Projects Coordinator, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.email@example.com
The main motivations in updating
the policy are improving stormwater
management, reducing the urban
heat island, mitigating and adapting
to climate change, protecting wildlife,
conserving water and developing the
1. Assembled a committee of experts
that met three times as a large
group and then broke into smaller
sub-groups and met separately.
2. Extensive community/
3 .Employee training
4. Stakeholder engagement/training
The update of the policy includes:
1. Online policy introduction
2. Online policy handbook
3. Online compliance form
Creating the policy was challenging
as it was difficult to place a comparative value on various sustainable
strategies and building certification
1. Thoughtful interpretation
2. Consistent implementation
Chicago's Department of Planning and
Development will review the policy
and the implementation results in 6
months to a year and possibly make
modifications/improvements at that
time. For more information on the policy please contact Michael Berkshire,
Green Projects Administrator, City of
Chicago. Phone: 312-744-0363 / Email:
LIVING ARCHITECTURE MONITOR / FALL 2017 / 23