At the opening general session of the ASLA 2009 Annual Meeting, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley argued that “nature can coexist with a large city.” Daley added that there are challenges in dealing with urban environments, but protecting the environment is critical to the future of Chicago.
Daley believes smart green buildings and open spaces such as Millennium Park create a livable city. Furthermore, livable cities own the future. “The future belongs to cities. People want to live in metropolitan areas. They also want open spaces — parks, bike paths, beaches.” Chicago’s economic competitiveness and ability to attract new talent are intimately tied to the quality of its environment.
Last year, Chicago launched a Climate Action plan, a comprehensive plan including hundreds of initiatives aimed at improving the sustainability of the city. As an example, the strategy takes aim at the city’s urban heat island effect. To reduce urban temperatures, Chicago has invested in more than 600 green roofs, covering 7 million square feet. “If we can decrease the temperature of the city by one degree, we save more than USD 150 million in energy costs.” Green roofs translate into cleaner, cooler air and lowered energy costs. Green roofs also play a role in Chicago’s sustainable storm water management programs.
Daley also lauded Chicago’s Millennium Park, which he called the “nation’s largest green roof” because it’s built on top of a massive parking garage. Citing Millennium Park as a model public-private partnership, Daley noted that the park was funded in part by the underground parking garage, which has brought profits to the facility’s developers.
To make schools more sustainable, Chicago has created more than 100 campus parks adjacent to schools.
There are also more than 1,900 new green alleys, which Daley argues, are setting the benchmark for the use of pervious, permeable materials in city alleys.
Daley argued that city requirements can incentivize a move towards more sustainable practices. Any building that receives city funds must abide by new, more stringent green building codes.
Chicago’s mayor concluded that some companies believe the “cost of business goes up when you go environmentally-sustainable.” Really, the opposite is true: going green has saved energy, money, and helped created a more livable city that can attract the best talent.