Last June, Retrofit Chicago’s Commercial Buildings Initiative was launched as part of the Obama Administration’s Better Buildings Challenge. Today 32 buildings are participating in the CBI, a voluntary effort to increase energy efficiency in commercial buildings larger than 200,000 square feet. The goal is to reduce energy use by at least 20 percent within five years.
The buildings participating in the CBI include some of Chicago’s most notable historic structures, namely The Rookery, the Wrigley Building, and the Hotel Burnham. The Rookery (1888) was designed by Daniel Burnham and John Root and stands out as an architectural masterpiece in the city’s financial district. (Interesting footnote: Frank Lloyd Wright redesigned the two-story lobby in 1905.) The Wrigley Building (1924) has always been one of my favorite Chicago landmarks. Designed in Beaux-Arts style by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, it makes an elegant statement with its white terra-cotta exterior. The Hotel Burnham, originally called the Reliance Building, was designed by John Wellborn Root. This steel-and-glass structure was considered radical back in the day and set the precedent for modern skyscrapers.
Retrofitting older, architecturally significant homes to make them sustainable is a worthy effort that doesn’t always get credit in the media. What I like about the CBI is that it’s a larger-than-life program to ensure the viability of such historic buildings by reducing their carbon footprint, and preserve them for present and future generations to enjoy.