Let's Talk About Sustainability


Tomorrow is #EarthOvershootDay - a designation which marks the moment our demand for natural resources exceeds what the planet can renew.  According to the Global Footprint Network (GFN), we reach that day this year on August 1 - the earliest it has ever been.

The group has been assessing just how much of the Earth’s resources we use, from water to clean air, and the day each year when our species overshoots the planet’s ability to annually regenerate itself. To calculate the date, GFN divides the planet’s biocapacity (ecological resources generated each year) by the totality of humanity’s demand on those resources. While pointing to this disturbing trend, they also promote solutions:

"While our planet is finite, human possibilities are not. The transformation to a sustainable, carbon-neutral world will succeed if we apply humanity’s greatest strengths: foresight, innovation, and care for each other. The good news is that this transformation is not only technologically possible, it is also economically beneficial and our best chance for a prosperous future."

Sustainability is a complex concept that is gaining importance in many sectors. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) actively promotes sustainability and empowers architects to design a world that allows people, communities, and our planet to thrive. They understand that a community's sustainability goals are fulfilled in large part by an architect’s ability to create practical solutions to the challenges posed by climate change, population growth and the pursuit of more connected, healthier communities. Earlier this year, they offered a progress report on their Sustainability Leadership Opportunity Scan project and their efforts to provide architects with the tools needed to meet the sustainability challenges of today.

Let's use tomorrow to stimulate conversations about sustainability. You can learn more about #EarthOvershootDay here.

Healthy Buildings

 Source: Harvard's Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment

Source: Harvard's Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment

The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (C-CHANGE) was officially launched last month at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. At the opening event, the Center's Director Gina McCarthy said “C-CHANGE will ensure that cutting-edge science produced by Harvard Chan School is actionable—that the public understands it, and that it gets into the hands of decision-makers so that science drives decisions.” Such science includes research on healthier buildings.

ArchDaily reported that C-CHANGE's Healthy Buildings team have released a list that "details the simple foundations of making a building healthy." The 9 foundations for healthy buildings include ventilation, air quality, thermal health, moisture, dust/pests, safety/security, water quality, noise and lighting/views. The team created these foundations as a standardized, holistic approach to understanding how buildings impact the people inside them. In their report, the team explains that these nine factors can be assessed using performance metrics to show how a building’s health functions can be improved or optimized. Such assessments are among our expertise.

The Center's full 36-page report is available here.


This past month, The National Trust for Historic Preservation has celebrated Preservation Month with This Place Matters - a national campaign that encourages people to celebrate the places that are meaningful to them and to their communities. The organization is a privately funded nonprofit that works to save America’s historic places and promote the importance of adaptive reuse of our nation's older buildings. In fact, their commitment to the reuse, reinvestment, and revitalization of cities—which they describe as ReUrbanism—seeks nothing less than to transform both the perception and practice of preservation, responding to the issues cities face today.

To mark Preservation Month, and participate in #ThisPlaceMatters, I posted images on Twitter from my portfolio of a few of the buildings we've helped bring back to life:

Pictured from left to right: The Library Lofts* at 619 S. LaSalle, The Powhatan*, The Old Colony Building* and The Farnsworth House (photos marked with an asterisk (*) taken by Lee Bey).

Earlier this month, AJ Latrace wrote an article for Chicago Magazine asking the question: "Is Chicago Experiencing a Historic Preservation Crisis?" He noted that lots of buildings flagged by preservationists for their importance have come down in recent years...and 2018 could be just as bad. Let's hope that efforts like #ThisPlaceMatters continues to encourage and inspire an ongoing dialogue about the importance of place and preservation in all of our lives that lasts far beyond the month of May.


Architecture Week 2018


Architecture Week is held every April as part of the American Institute of Architect's nationwide celebration of our built environment. While there has been some confusion about the actual 2018 dates, a tweet from AIA confirmed that the week of April 22-28, 2018 has been designated for the national annual observance. AIA chapters all over the country will offer a variety of lectures, tours and activities geared towards architects and the public alike during the week.

AIA Chicago has a very active calendar of events throughout the year, and several activities have been set during Architecture Week:

TUESDAY / APRIL 24, 2018 / 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Heitman Architects, 180 N. Wacker Drive, Suite 001, Chicago

Join the Illinois Green Alliance, IIDA Illinois, and AIA Chicago for a four-part series addressing health and wellness in our buildings and spaces. This third-part will focus on how lighting can improve the health and performance of occupants.

TUESDAY / APRIL 24, 2018 / 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM

The Devon&Devon showroom in the Merchandise Mart will play host to a reception celebrating the 2018 Small Project Awards which will be announced on Thursday, May 17 at the annual SPA Exhibit.

WEDNESDAY / APRIL 25, 2018 / 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
906 S. Homan Ave., Chicago, IL

The 2018 Community Interface Committee theme is Neighborhood Diversity. CIC will kick off the year with a tour of the Nichols Tower at Homan Square in Lawndale which was home to the Original Sears Tower since 1906. The 14-story Neo-Classical tower was part of the sprawling Sears, Roebuck & Co complex until they moved downtown in 1973.

THURSDAY / APRIL 26, 2018 / 8:30 AM - 11:45 AM
AIA Chicago, 35 East Wacker Drive #250, Chicago, IL

Sexual harassment in the workplace is an important topic, and AIA Chicago wants to ensure that members have accurate information on this subject. Professional Affiliate member Debra Gervase, Area Vice President for Arthur J. Gallagher, has organized a program that will help architects from firms of all sizes understand the issues that they and their business may face.

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Architecture Week will also be used to raise awareness about the AIA's Blueprint for Better Communities initiative - a program intended to increase architects’ engagement with their communities around pressing issues like climate change, housing, and public health.

An Emphasis on Sustainability

 (Source: Jay Koziarz, Curbed Chicago)

(Source: Jay Koziarz, Curbed Chicago)

Earlier this year, Chicago's iconic Rock 'N' Roll McDonald's, complete with its signature oversized golden arches, was demolished in preparation for construction of a sleek, eco-friendly “store of the future.” Since it first opened as a tourist attraction in 1983, the site has been one of the most famous McDonald's locations in the world and was once the busiest in the United States.

 Rendering of McDonald's new River North location designed by Carol Ross Barney. (Source: McDonald's)

Rendering of McDonald's new River North location designed by Carol Ross Barney. (Source: McDonald's)

The original building was torn down and replaced in 2005; and the newly updated restaurant will abandon the rock ‘n’ roll theme, reuse the old building's kitchen and deploy design elements (such as solar panels) to improve energy efficiency. Curbed Chicago reports that "the theme of sustainability continues with living fern walls, a cross laminated timber structural system, and a mini-orchard of harvestable apple trees visible though a clerestory window." McDonald’s evolving design philosophy is said to be the company's latest measure to remain fresh and relevant.

In an interview with Chicago Magazine, Chris Kempczinski, president of McDonald's U.S. operations said “With all of the moves we make, whether with our new headquarters or with the Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s, we’re making a statement about our company and our brand and the culture we’re trying to create." The old flagship’s Rock 'N' Roll theme looked back to celebrate McDonald’s heritage, he says: “The statement we’re making with the new restaurant is much more forward-looking.”

Elements of the new River North flagship will eventually be rolled out across the country.