Rush University Medical Center, Chicago – Now Green

So, over the past few years, Rush University Medical Center, located on the near northwest side of Chicago, has transformed itself into a ecofriendly medical center.  First, the Medical Center established its “Green Team”, which according the its Web site, “…was formed by a group of interested Rush faculty, staff and students who volunteer their time to foster sustainability efforts at the Center.”

The Medical Center has also decreased its amount of paper used by converting to an electronic health record system, the implementation of sensor-activated paper towel dispensers in the washrooms, napkin dispensers that dispense one napkin at a time and cutlery dispenser units in the cafeteria that dispense forks, knives and spoons without the extra plastic packaging. For more information, visit this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RB4PPf65xlw.

But, the “crown jewel” of Rush’s sustainability program is the Tower, which opened in January 2012 and was awarded LEED Gold Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Located at 1620 W. Harrison Street, Rush is the only full-service green hospital in the city. View this video to learn more about the Medical Center’s green efforts: http://rushnews.rush.edu/2012/04/19/tower-sets-green-milestone-with-leed-designation/.

Rush earned high marks for its green design, construction and operation and gained the LEED Gold Certification for energy use, lighting, water, material use and establishing sustainable strategies.

Some of the characteristics of the new building which helped it “go gold” include:

  • green roofs
  • comprehensive recycling program
  • the building’s “butterfly” allows natural light into the building, reducing the need for electric lighting
  • twenty percent of materials used during construction were recycled
  • more than 70 percent of wooden doors made with materials harvested from certified sustainable forests

Chicago Area Libraries Combine Green with Knowledge

Did Benjamin Franklin think when he developed the idea for the public library that the library would become a second home for many of us? In my opinion libraries have a cozy feel to them — they’re almost like a second home. All of those books and music in one place, not to mention the computers and other services a library has to offer. Who needs to go home? Over the past 25 years libraries have become more than a place to visit when you need to write that dreaded book report or state report; libraries have become the hub of information for a community. This can clearly be seen currently duing the United States’ recession. Libraries have stepped up and have assisted their patrons in developing job hunting strategies by offering seminars and databases chock full of information.

Libraries’ main focus has always been to provide information and offer knowledge to their patrons. Recently, libraries have taken that knowledge one step further and have used it gor the greater good — to go green. Of course, the most famous library that has gone green is Chicago’s Harold Washington Library Center, which boasts a secret garden of its own on top of its roof, but several suburban libraries have gone one step further in the green movement.

One of the most recently added green libraries to the Chicago area is the Addison Public Library, located in Addison, Ill., which incorporates such green features as green roofs, low-emissivity (Low-E) insulated glass, flooring made out of bamboo and cork, and extensive use of natural sunlight.

Addison Public Library

Addison Public Library

Already known for its historic Frank Lloyd Wright homes, the Oak Park Public Library in Oak Park, Ill. is in the process of implementing a green roof.

Located in northwest suburban Illinois and one of the largest cities in the state, the Rakow Branch of Elgin’s Gail Borden Library will contain many eco-friendly features including a geothermal well system and natural light design. According to a recent issue of the library’s newsletter, “Library officials anticipate that the Rakow Branch will receive silver or gold LEED certification.”

Chicago’s Green Roofs

Thanks to Mayor Richard M. Daley, Chicago surpasses all other United States cities when it comes to green roofs. With over 600 green roofs Chicago is paving the green way for other large cities throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

Green roofs, or rooftop gardens, consist of the following components:

  1. Plants
  2. Growing Material (soil, or specifically engineered material)
  3. Filter Cloth (covers soil, contains plant roots, allows for water penetration)
  4. Drainage Layer
  5. Root Barrier
  6. Waterproofing Membrane (root repelling as well)
  7. Roof deck

According to the City of Chicago’s Department of Environment, “Green roofs improve air quality, conserve energy, reduce storm

Chicagos First Green Roof

Chicago's "First" Green Roof

water runoff and help reduce the urban heat island effect.”

The Chicago City Hall, which was completed in 2001, serves as an example of  a burgeoning green roof in an urban area. This roof was the recipient of the American Society of Landscape Architects 2002 Professional Merit Award, and is currently on average seven degrees cooler than surrounding roofs and as much as 30 degrees cooler in the summer.

In addition to aesthic reasons, there are many benefits for green reasons including energy savings and increase in health. According to http://www.greenroofs.org, other reasons for turning your roof  into a green paradise include:

  • the potential to minimize the size of HVAC equipment on new or retrofitted buildings,
  • the possibility to include cooling and water treatment functions, and
  • savings on energy heating and cooling costs.

So, where are these green roofs? To view a map of Chicago’s green roofs and learn more about green roofs visit http://www.artic.edu/webspaces/greeninitiatives/greenroofs/main_map.htm.