The Sears Tower Goes Green, Gets Wind Turbines in $350 Million Renovation


Photo Credit: Harshil.Shah via Flickr/CC BY-SA

The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere is getting a new high profile addition: a $350 million retrofit that will include wind turbines and extensive energy efficiency improvements. The Sears tower is on track to become the biggest, greenest building in the US.It's going to be one of the most ambitious green renovations ever--though it might not be the flat out biggest, as that honor belongs to another Chicago landmark, the Merchandise Mart. But it's nonetheless a pretty exciting project for one of the nation's most iconic buildings. Sure, everyone's pretty familiar with greening buildings and wind turbines by now, but this will take sustainability into a whole new publicity realm. I mean, every building that opts to shoot for LEED accreditation should be commended, but this is the Sears Tower we're talking about here.

And this way more than a couple wind turbines tossed on top to snag some publicity for 'green' initiatives. According to the New York Times:

the turbines are only the tip of the transformation. The plan, to begin immediately, aims to reduce electricity use in the tower by 80 percent over five years through upgrades in the glass exterior, internal lighting, heating, cooling and elevator systems -- and its own green power generation.
And beyond the PR effects, the renovation itself will be massively environmentally beneficial. After all, the tower houses a whopping 4.5 million square feet of retail and office space and over 100 elevators. There's a lot of room for green improvement. And the work will pay off big time:
Buildings are among the world's largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions. After the retrofit, energy savings at the Sears Tower, which is to be renamed the Willis Tower this summer, would be equal to 150,000 barrels of oil a year, officials said. The savings are expected to help redeem some of the project's cost.
Hopefully the Sears, er, Willis Tower will set the bar for green building renovation.

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