Chicago's Green Streak

Two recent articles reiterate Chicago's role in making the United States a greener place:

First, an article appeared in Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times by its old architecture critic Lee Bey, who left that post to become Mayor Richard M. Daley's right-hand man on architecture-related decisions and is now working as director of media and governmental affairs at SOM. Bey talks about green rooftops in the Loop and green bungalows on the South Side, concluding that Chicago's "sustainable push should serve as an example to state and federal governments and the building industry." If you've been paying attention, there's nothing new here, though at first glance it appears that something closer to Germany's model would serve as an example. Chicago is taking strides towards sustainability, but it's still a long way from what it should be, perhaps because our gas and energy prices - high for us now - are still very low when compared to other countries and continents.

Second, Metropolis Magazine cover's "Mayor Daley's Green Crusade" in its July issue. This piece focuses on what Mayor Daley has implemented in his fifteen years as mayor, such as the Chicago Center for Green Technology (one of only six LEED Platinum buildings), adding trees and plants to planters and sidewalks, using hydrogen-fueled buses, and others (pdf link). The most visible (politically, not visually) maneuver so far has been the greening of City Hall's roof, the first green roof on a municipal building in the US.

Da' Mayor on da roof
Mayor Daley on the roof of City Hall

What both these articles have in common is the all-too-American fact that for sustainability to be successful in the US it must have economic advantages. For example, jobs are created by many of the Mayor's programs. Renewable-energy and other sustainably-minded companies are attracted to Chicago for its programs, increasing the city's tax base and creating more jobs. Individuals come to visit or live in the healthy landscape of the city, in turn boosting real estate values and so forth. In other words, Chicago is trying to make sustainability work economically as well as on its own principles, something that on second thought would make a good model for other cities in the United States.

Update 07.06: NPR features a page with audio on green roofs, titled "Green Roofs Sprout Up All Over," with links to projects on the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities web site.