Urban Retrofits, Tall Buildings, and Sustainability

Originally posted 2009-11-09 09:00:00.

Double Sky ScrapersAs I took a small break between cases and contract reviews, an article in the November 2, 2009 issue of ENR Magazine caught my eye.  The article discusses the efforts of a Chicago architect to create a holistic approach to the renovation and “de-carbonization” of the Chicago Loop area.  The plan involves large scale energy retrofits and sustainable reuse of Chicago’s tall buildings.

Another interesting aspect of this article points out that tall buildings in general have hit the construction skids in the US and Latin America, this is not the case in Europe and the Middle East.  However, those buildings that are going up (and up and up) are trying to go “green.”  Several of the worlds tallest buildings, or soon to be so, are seeking LEED gold or platinum certification.

These two trends, in my view, are healthy.  First of all, much like the goal of Build2Sustain, the Chicago effort is a move toward sustainable reuse and retrofit/renovation.  I see this as a great trend and a way to perform the “Three R’s” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), by reusing existing building materials and footprints without the cost and use of newer materials from tear downs and rebuilds.

Second of all, the trend toward “up not out” seems to me to be a great thought.  Of course there are certain physical limits to the trend toward taller and taller buildings, but as a whole, the smaller the footprint, the more sustainable the building.  Taller means closer together, and closer together means better walking paths and easier access to public transportation among other “green” benefits.

The fact that LEED is going international in this way is a good thing as well. It means that the world, including places like China, is moving in the right direction.

What do you think?  Am I on the right track? This post is meant to be a discussion starter, so I really would like to hear from readers of Musings through comments, tweets and other avenues of contact.

I encourage you to comment below and subscribe to keep up with the latest Construction Law Musings.

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12 Responses to Urban Retrofits, Tall Buildings, and Sustainability
  1. build2sustain (James Bedell)
    November 9, 2009 | 10:33 AM

    Twitter Comment


    Urban Retrofits, Tall Buildings, and Sustainability:
    As I took a small break between cases and contract revie.. [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Christopher Hill and The Aribra Group, James Bedell. James Bedell said: Urban Retrofits, Tall Buildings, and Sustainability: As I took a small break between cases and contract revie.. http://bit.ly/2BWPoN […]

  3. uberVU - social comments
    November 9, 2009 | 11:13 AM

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by YahyaHenry: Build2Sustain: Urban Retrofits, Tall Buildings, and Sustainability http://bit.ly/2BWPoN

  4. Timothy R. Hughes
    Twitter:
    November 9, 2009 | 11:23 AM

    Hi Chris,
    I think the density urban style approach is key to reducing carbon footprint, getting unhooked from cars, et c. I also think that retrofitting is a place where we can collectively get a lot of bang for the buck and improve our energy performance without as substantial investments where appropriate.

    Great topic, and something to keep an eye on moving forward!
    .-= Timothy R. Hughes´s last blog post ..Contractually Mandated Mediation: Good or Bad? =-.

  5. YahyaHenry (Yahya E. B. Henry)
    November 9, 2009 | 11:36 AM

    Twitter Comment


    Build2Sustain: Urban Retrofits, Tall Buildings, and Sustainability [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  6. Christopher G. Hill
    Twitter:
    November 9, 2009 | 1:49 PM

    Thanks for the comment Tim. These sorts of trends are good because they show that urban developers are considering the sustainable possibilities.

  7. Christopher G. Hill
    Twitter:
    November 9, 2009 | 5:53 PM

    Thanks to all who joined the conversation! There is always room for more!
    .-= Christopher G. Hill´s last blog post ..Protecting the Public in Proximity to Construction Sites =-.

  8. Jamesbedell (Jamesbedell)
    April 16, 2010 | 6:37 AM

    Twitter Comment


    RT @constructionlaw: Urban Retrofits, Tall Buildings, and Sustainability [link to post] #OPP

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  9. eXapath (Mike Hines)
    April 16, 2010 | 9:03 AM

    Twitter Comment


    RT @build2sustain: RT @constructionlaw: Urban Retrofits, Tall Buildings, and Sustainability [link to post] #OPP

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  10. eXapath (Mike Hines)
    April 16, 2010 | 12:05 PM

    Twitter Comment


    RT @build2sustain: RT @build2sustain: RT @constructionlaw: Urban Retrofits, Tall Buildings, and Sustainability [link to post] #OPP

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  11. […] back in 2009, I discussed the interaction between taller and taller buildings and sustainable (“green”) building.  Back then, the reference was to the construction of skyscrapers in the Middle East and Europe.  […]

  12. Green Business Watch
    Twitter:
    November 19, 2012 | 4:13 AM

    Hi Chris

    That’s a great point about retrofit / renovation. It really is reduce, reuse, recycle in action. The US Green Building Council raised the same question on their blog recently. It seems new construction of “green buildings” gets a lot of the focus. Often, making the best of what is there already is the best way forward.
    Green Business Watch recently posted..Green Building Gearing Up For Global GrowthMy Profile

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About Musings

I am a construction lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, a LEED AP, and have been nominated by my peers to Virginia's Legal Elite in Construction Law on multiple occasions. I provide advice and assistance with mechanic's liens, contract review and consulting, occupational safety issues (VOSH and OSHA), and risk management for construction professionals.

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