Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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E-town, Green-town

Environmentally friendly architecture is not only about protecting cute animals and life-giving oxygen.

“It’s just a good business practice,” said Evanston’s Assistant Director of Facilities Management David Cook.

New ways to track standards and public awareness have made “green” building popular as a way to save money and the environment at the same time, Evanston architects and government officials said.

The vision statement developed by aldermen and city staff in strategic plan sessions expressed a desire to create “a culture of environmental consciousness” in Evanston and a desire for the city to initiate the process by acting as a front-runner.

City staff began tracking energy usage by city facilities less than a year ago, Cook said. He said they hope to pinpoint inefficient buildings and then to find and fix the source of the problems.

Refitting an existing building to become more green is expensive, but facilities can be updated one at a time. The city recently installed more energy-efficient lights in the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, 1655 Foster St.

But Cook said they are wary of purchasing greener products right as they come on the market. When the city bought more efficient radiators, the staff soon realized the amount of maintenance required devalued any benefits, Cook said.

“We want to be on the leading edge, not the bleeding edge,” he said.

At the last strategic planning meeting Nov. 5, aldermen discussed mandating Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification for all new commercial buildings. The city already intends to seek certification for the new Fire Station No. 5, Cook said.

The LEED program provides a registry and standard to identify environmentally friendly structures. Developers apply for certification and can qualify if they score enough points on a criteria checklist.

“I’ve been in this field 35 years and there’s never been anything like this,” said Helen Kessler, a LEED-accredited architect. “It’s definitely encouraging more people to turn to green building.”

Northwestern University began requiring all new buildings to earn LEED certification about one year ago. The Ford Center will be the first NU building to receive LEED certification, Ronald Nayler said.

“It would be nice if the city had a similar approach,” said Joel Freeman, a member of the advocacy group Evanston’s Energy Future. “Before, the city leaders weren’t talking about it. But if we can get the city staff and elected officials on board then something will happen.”

As word about green architecture spreads and gains popularity, developers are using it to attract buyers and save money, said Stephen Yas, president of YAS Architecture, LLC. His company is seeking LEED certification for a planned development at 2100 Greenwood St.

“In the last three to four years everyone has been talking about doing it,” he said. “It’s marketable to be able to say it’s green architecture and in an educated community like Evanston, it’s icing on the cake.”

Optima Towers, 800 Davis St., exemplified a trend of elaborate green rooftops as early as 2002.

“It’s more shade in the summertime and quite literally making the building more green,” said Brent Norsman, an architect for Norsman Architects Ltd., whose development at 1800 Ridge Ave. includes 30 trees on the roof.

The Norsman development also will take advantage of solar heat. A balcony will provide shade for windows in the summer and a screen of vine plants will let sunlight in during the winter when they lose their leaves. With increased gas prices, energy conservation attracts buyers, Norsman said.

Like city government, the developers have different ideas for saving the environment. Yas said his company purchases supplies locally to reduce energy used for shipping. Investing in special carpet helps avoid the “new carpet smell” that signals the release of poisonous toxins into the air, he said. Norsman Architects looks out for the environment by using bamboo, which takes only five years to grow back, instead of wood for flooring.

“There’s more of a social consciousness toward the subject,” Norsman said. “It’s getting a lot of publicity.”

Contact Elizabeth Gibson at

[email protected].

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
E-town, Green-town