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.

Earth Day 2017

April 22 is Earth Day, the annual effort to demonstrate support for environmental protection. The date was originally chosen (47 years ago) in order to maximize participation on college campuses for what the organizer conceived as an "environmental teach-in" for students. Today the event is global, and various sectors use the occasion to mark their commitment to a healthy planet - including architects!

Thanks to the work of organizations like the U.S. Green Building Council, the AIA and others, building owners and architects are finding ways to design, build, restore and maintain structures that allow people, communities, and our planet to thrive. Today seems like an appropriate time to share a portion of AIA's statement on sustainability:

What is sustainability? 

Sustainability is about positioning current and future generations for prosperity by reducing buildings’ impact on the environment, restoring our natural resources and creating safe and vibrant communities.  When architecture is sustainable, it performs to its highest design potential: producing not consuming; providing resilient structures and communities that withstand the onslaughts of both natural and man-made disasters; and fostering opportunities for health and well-being. 

Why is sustainability important?

Sustainability is a key element of the architecture profession’s approach to design in the 21st century as it tackles the compounding global challenges of resource availability, water quality and increasing pollution. It is part of an architect’s approach to protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public.  Community 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.

To read more about the AIA's commitment to sustainability, click here. Of course, I'm happy to chat about the topic with you at any time.