Community Colleges Adding Green to Community – Part 5, Elgin Community College

The foceccus of our fifth part in our series about Chicago area community colleges sustainability efforts circles back to a more urban environment – Elgin Community College (ECC). Located approximately 25 miles west of Chicago, Elgin is the seventh most populated city in the state of Illinois.

Creating a More Responsive Sustainable Community

According to Ileo N. Lott, Ed.D. Dean of Sustainability, Business, and Career Technologies, unlike other Chicago area community colleges, “The campus [ECC] does not have a master plan for sustainability, but our commitment to sustainability is reflected in ECC’s Strategic Goal #5 to ‘strengthen educational and workforce partnerships to create a more responsive and sustainable community.'”

Lott explains that partnerships to grow sustainability throughout the campus continue to be a main focus. He states that ” Globally, the focus of sustainability is to accomplish the best outcomes while maintaining and, better yet, reducing resources. We are measured by our effectiveness in reducing our resources based upon the investment we make in our educational and workforce partnerships.”

With the creation of the Business and Career Technology Center in 2010, ECC seized its commitment to sustainability. The Energy Business Management Program, which “focuses on preparing students for work as mid-level technicians in the renewable energy industry as technicians in large, commercial facilities in the area of environmental controls and computerized building automation. Many companies…are required to measure their energy management consumption…,” explains Lott.

Sustainable practices is a part of the curriculum for all career and technology programs at the College, demonstrating the importance of sustainability to its students as a best practice for most organizations today.

Showing Green On Campus

ECC's Building A.

ECC’s Building A.

Sustainability is not only a philosophy at ECC, but the campus has started showing its belief in sustainability and green practices too. The College’s Building A; which houses the biology, microbiology, anatomy, physiology and other science and medical classes; was recognized as the 2013 recipient Project of the Year by the Construction Industry Service Corporation (CISCO). According to an ECC press release, “It [Building A]  [received] LEED Silver certification, which underscores the college’s focus on environmental stewardship.

After the decision to incorporate sustainability, ECC became a member of the Illinois Green Economy Network, which led to hands-on opportunities for the campus to adopt sustainable practices.

For example, the … Energy Management students conducted an energy audit for light usage in the manufacturing building that led to more efficient LED bulbs being used throughout the building. Additionally, several water bottle filler stations were installed across the campus to encourage the use of refillable water bottles. Each station keeps a tally on how many plastic water bottles have been saved.”

Lott states, ” Future plans at ECC [include] to continue to make sustainability a campus and community effort. There is a campus-wide sustainability committee and, most recently, a student-led club, Student Organization for Sustainability (SOS). Additionally, other student led clubs such as the CEO club have  embraced sustainability in sponsoring of Earth Day Events and promoting the entrepreneurial mindset.”




Sustainable Chicago 2015

Chicago has set the ambitious goal of being the first sustainable city in the US and the Sustainable Chicago 2015 plan, is already underway with 24 goals and 100 key actions. Named the 2014 National Earth Hour Capitol, Chicago is the first city with a climate smart policy.

According to a September 18, 2015 article on its Web site, the World Wildlife Foundation noted, chicagoflag“Sustainable Chicago is a broad action plan that covers seven themes: economic development and job creation; energy efficiency and clean energy; transportation options; water and wastewater and waste and recycling; parks, open space and healthy food; and climate change.”

The seven categories of Sustainable Chicago 2015 “…are related and reinforce each other…”:

  1. Economic development and job creation
  2. Energy efficiency and clean energy
  3. Transportation options
  4. Water and wastewater
  5. Parks, open space and healthy food
  6. Waste and recycling
  7. Climate change

Some of the 2014 achievements touched all seven categories and include:

  • Greencorps Chicago Youth Program provides high school students summer learning and workforce training in horticulture and bicycling.
  • Chicago became the first city to include online energy disclosure in residential home sale listings.
  • Launched Drive Electric Chicago, a one-stop shop Web site for residents to gather information about electric vehicles, including charge station installation guidelines for multiunit buildings.
  • The Space to Grow partnership built green infrastructure projects on the Chicago Public School campuses.
  • The Large Lots Program offered city-owned vacant lots to local residents, block clubs and community organizations for $1.
  • The city and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District agreed to partner in reusing tree waste in water treatment, and compost wastewater treatment byproduct to fertilize Chicago Park District open spaces.
  • City council passed a plastic bag ban in large retail stores (goes into effect August 2015)
  • Coal-free power acquired for all municipal facilities

According to the report, “In the third and final year of Sustainable Chicago 2015 we, [the City of Chicago] look forward to continue our progress and lay the groundwork for Chicago’s leadership in sustainability in 2016 and beyond.”

For more detailed information on Sustainable Chicago 2015 including goals visit



Grainger’s New Data Center First LEED Certified Center

Lake Forest, Ill.-based Grainger, the broad line supplier of maintenance, repair and operating systems, recently announced that its new data center located in Lake Forest, “…is certified as the world’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] facility of this type,” as stated in a recent Grainger press release.

The new data cenGraingerter features an advanced cooling system where the energy used for cooling the facility is controlled by closely monitoring the air flow using outside air to cool the facility. Due to this feature, Grainger expects the new facility to consume up to 50 percent less energy for cooling compared to similar data centers.

According to the press release, “Data centers usually run nonstop, which means these facilities can consume up to 200 times more electricity than typical office spaces. Most of this energy is used to cool the building as temperatures from IT equipment housed in a data center can reach more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This Grainger data center’s air cooling design is anticipated to have a best-in-class PUE rating of 1.2 at full capacity; the industry average is 2.0.”

“Our goal is always to build the most sustainable facility possible,” said Gail Edgar, vice president of Grainger Real Estate and Facilities Services. “One of the most important components of the project was to realize significant energy savings by maintaining a low Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), which measures the energy used beyond the IT load.”

According to Grainger’s Web site, the company is committed to building more buildings up to LEED standards. Grainger became the first industrial distributor to have a LEED-certified facility in 2008. Presently, the company operates 16 LEED-certified buildings in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and construction is underway for its newest facility in Toronto.

The Web site states, “By sharing best practices across facilities, almost all Grainger buildings have adapted some components of LEED certification requirements in areas such as recycling, waste disposal, lighting and cleaning. For example, the company has retrofitted 168 facilities in Canada and the United States with energy efficient lighting, decreasing annual energy consumption by an average of 15 percent per facility.”

The United States Green Building Council’s LEED program “… is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Prerequisites and credits differ for each rating system, and teams choose the best fit for their project.”

Chicago Shows Signs of Green Hope

About a month ago I attended the Building Green Chicago Conference & Expo, sponsored by Sustainable Chicago magazine and was happy to be among other agreeing individuals representing many professions from the building industry, city employees and students – a sign of the future.

Deborah Stone, Cook County’s first Sustainability Officer and Director of the Cook County Department of Environmental Control was this year’s keynote speaker.

DSC00057According to Stone, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) by 80 percent by 2050. The June 5, 2013 Report of the Cook County Advisory Council reported that in 2012, 150 structures consumed 247 million kwhs of energy and 13 million therms of natural gas. County government buildings use consume 90 percent of the city’s energy. The top three structures of focus are:

  • Department of Corrections – 35%
  • Stroger Hospital Campus – 26%
  • Various remaining buildings – 11%

Stone also noted that Preckwinkle’s vision is for Chicago to be the most sustainable county it can be.

The Sustainability Advisory Report, which was released in June 3013 states “Building energy is the largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for 67 percent of the emissions in the County.”

During her presentation, Stone explained that the County is ahead of its reduction of emissions target. The reduction of GHGs is not seen as a project, but is a driving force. GHGs impact five million residents and 130 muncipalities; these emissions cause  climate change in various ways including extreme weather and different health impacts. According to the June 2013 Report, the environmental benefits of reducing GHGs include environmental benefits from efficiencies in the conservation of water, land and other natural resources; reduction of particulates, toxic metals and other pollutants.

Please note – I am always looking for new ideas about green efforts and the environment to blog about – both local (Chicago area), general and global. I’m also very interested in expanding upon these ideas and writing more research-driven articles for publications.  Also, I apologize for the delay on this blog – there was a lot going on and I just could not find the time to write the article until now.  Please contact me if you like –


Some Good Green News For Illinois

Illinois is not usually known for “being green” – Chicago’s towering skyscrapers and congested traffic emitting pollution is usually the first image that comes to mind when people think of Illinois. But, Chicago has made many efforts toward helping out Mother Earth, starting with former Mayor Richard J. Daley and continuing with present Mayor Rahm Emanuel. But, for those of use who are native Illinoisans, there is much more to the state than just Chicago – beautiful Lake County to the north of the city and to Southern Illinois with its rolling hills and grand green pastures.

DePaul University's Theatre Building.

DePaul University’s Theatre Building.

Illinois garnered the number one slot with 171 projects at 24.5 million square feet in 2013. Some of the LEED buildings of note include Powell Elementary School, the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the DePaul Theatre School, which was recently awarded LEED Gold certification.

According to a recent USGBC article, “The list of the Top 10 States for LEED is a continuing indicator of the widespread recognition of our national imperative to create healthier, high-performing buildings that are better for the environment as well as the people who use them every day,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC.

Also noted in the USGBC article, Governor Quinn stated, “Both the public and private sectors in Illinois recognize that long-term investments in the 21st century infrastructure should be done in ways that reduce energy consumption and protect the environment…Illinois is proud to be the nation’s green buildings leader.”



Chicago Businesses Go Green – Part II

Recently, the Delta Institute announced that it had achieved LEED platinum certification, which, considering the Institute’s mission, makes perfect sense.

According to the Delta Institute’s Web site it [Delta Institute] “…works in partnership with business, government and communities in the Great Lakes region to create and implement innovative, market-driven solutions that build environmental resilience, economic vitality and healthy communities.

On SeptemberHome 4 it was announced that the Delta Institute (located in the historic Jeweler’s Building at 35 Wacker Drive in the heart of Chicago’s Loop) achieved US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certification — making it one of only nine Chicago buildings with LEED platinum distinction.

According to a September 4 Delta Institute press release some of the enhancements made for LEED certification  include:

  • Water use reduction – Delta reduced its water use by 40 percent via the installation of low-flow kitchen fixtures and the collaboration with building maintenance to replace all bathroom fixtures for the floor with low-flow fixtures
  • Energy use reduction -Delta reduced its energy use by 30 percent with the installation of LED lighting and high-efficiency T-5 fluorescent lights with daylight photo sensors
  • Materials recycling – Delta recycled 98 percent the debris generated from the office build-out and used paints, sealants, furniture, and flooring composed of low volatile organic emitting materials.


Chicago Businesses Go Green – Part I

An increasing amount of businesses are going green, especially here in the Chicago area. Why should businesses go green? It just makes sense – if big businesses can make the effort then us as citizens can make the effort. It shows us that businesses have a heart too and care about their carbon footprint. Recently, two buildings who house green businesses received LEED Platinum Certification.

In May 2013 the country’s largest sustainable business community, Chicago’s Green Exchange, was awarded LEED platinum status. The Green Exchange houses a variety of businesses all which have included sustainability in their mission – from GreenChoice Bank to the Institute for Workforce Education, a division of Augustana University; Climate Cycle, which educates children about the environment and climate change to Ale Syndicate, a local brewery unique to Chicago.

Located at 2545 W. Diversey in Chicago,”The building features a large open foyer, an 8,000 square foot organic sky garden with an on-site restaurant in the works, and beautiful open event space with an abundance of natural sunlight, all of which are available to tenants and the public alike for special events. Other features include a state-of-the-art green roof, an organic garden, a chicken coop, a 41,329 gallon rain cistern to allow water to be captured and reused, energy efficient windows, an energy efficient escalator, and much more, ” which was noted in a May 24, 2013 Chicago Tribune article.

Set in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood, the Green Exchange was developed by Baum Developers, who, according to the Web site, are “…passionate about development projects in sprouting neighborhoods and is continually acclaimed for the preservation of historic and architecturally significant landmarks.”

The Green Building Exchange was the home of the Vassar Swiss Underwear Company and is also the recipient of the 2013 Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project for turning this historic building into a successful business center.

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:

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:

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 Nature Center Going for LEED Certification

Practicing what it preaches, the Hickory Knolls Nature Center in St. Charles, Ill. is “going for the green” to become a LEED-certified building.

The Nature Center, which opens in September 2011, will not only have plenty of interactive nature exhibits and classes for children and adults, but the Center will also offer a tour of its building, which boasts many green ideas including:

  1. The entrance to the building boasts recycled materials. The hickory leaves on display at the entrance are made from recycled soda bottles.
  2. The building’s washrooms have several conservation features which include hand dryers to save paper towels and landfill waste, automatic water sensors which save water and automatic flush toilets that also reduce water usage.
  3. Windows and skylights cuts the need for excessive lighting and energy use
  4. Geothermal heating and cooling system
  5. Concrete walls were used instead of drywall or other materials to also save on resources
  6. Regulated lighting system
  7. Low VOC-carpeting
  8. Exhibits were created to be reusable and moveable
  9. A semi-permeable pavers on the west side of the parking lot, which allows rain to percolate through, decreasing run-off and pollutants in waterways.

The exhibits are even ecofriendly! All of the paints, sealants, adhesives and even wood used throughout the exhibits are low-emitting materials, thus improving the air quality throughout the building.

Outdoors, the Discovery Center is green too! The native landscaping, which surrounds the Center have been treated with low amounts of herbicides, pesticides and water. So, the plants have deeper root systems and have adapted to drought conditions. Also, by planting gardens instead of turf less air pollution will be emitted by lawn mowers. Also, according to the Center, ” The Savannah and Birding Meadow are havens for our native animals, providing food, water and shelter. Even the building is benefitting from the shade of the Oaks, cooling on a hot summer day and decreasing our energy needs!”

Water gardens are situated near the parking lots, which collect rain water and is then filtered and absorbed by the plants, decreasing run-off.  There are plants growing on the Center’s roof too! The green roof absorbs water and decreases the heat island effect. So, the need for extra cooling is decreased, thus saving energy consumption.

So, check out the Hickory Knolls Discover Center — there’s more than just meets the eye. The Center is located at 3795 Campton Hills Road in St. Charles. For more information visit or call 630-513-4399.

Chicago Area College Dorms Go Green

Now, not only can college students learn about sustainability, they can also live in green dorms. Lately many Chicago area college dormitories have decided to become more ecofriendly.

The latest green dorm belongs to North Park College located in Naperville, Ill., a far western suburb of Chicago. Set to open September 14, this new dorm boasts precast concrete walls, geothermal heat and air conditioning, and a white reflective roof. Also, the entire building is constructed of materials found in Illinois and the surrounding area.

According to a July 9, 2009 Daily Herald article, “The most impressive part of this building might be its heating and air-conditioning systems.”

Project manager Glenn Behnke explains that there is no natural gas in the building.

Instead of using a gas furnace, this facility “will be one of the largest buildings in the Midwest to be heated and cooled using a geothermal system”, according to Charlie Saville, vice president of sustainability for Sieben Energy Associates of Chicago and LEED consultant for this project.

The dorm will also have covered bike storage lot, a nearby bus stop, energy efficient lights, and recycled building materials and glues, sealants, paints, and carpets that emit little or no volatile organic compounds.

North Park is hoping for LEED certification on this project, adding to yet another LEED certified college facility in the Chicago suburbs. Judson College’s (Elgin, Ill.) new library is LEED certified.

Located in Chicago, Saint Xavier’s Arthur Rubloff Hall became Illinois’ first university building to gain LEED Gold certification in 2006. The university’s Agatha O’Brein Hall, which opened in 2008 is also Gold LEED certified.

Saint Xaviers Arthur Rubloff Hall

Saint Xavier's Arthur Rubloff Hall

According to Saint Xavier, Rubloff Hall saves $55,000 annually by consuming 53 percent less energy than other facilities at SXU [Saint Xavier]. The Building Management System… adapts to the needs of a room by measuring [carbon dioxide] and featuring a side ventilation system that allows the air to flow upward, keeping a constant stream of fresh, clean air and forcing out older air through vents located higher in the walls.”

The mechanical room at the Agatha O’Brien Hall uses the most technology to run the building efficiently based on its demand of water or electricity, allowing for the double lifespan of the machinery that maintains optimal comfort levels.

So, not only are the students who live in these college quarters smart — the buildings themselves are smart too.