Recognized as the birthplace of the modern-day skyscraper, Chicago's skyline features dozens of towering structures, including the John Hancock Center and the Sears Tower. One of the city's newest landmarks, 300 North LaSalle, may not be as famous as some of its predecessors, but it incorporates a host of sustainable design elements that place it among the Windy City's greenest high-rise buildings.

“The design of the building's core and shell has qualified for LEED Gold certification,” says Doug Alvine, president of Omaha, Neb.-based Alvine Engineering, the design engineering firm for the building's mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection systems.

Featuring 25,000 rentable square foot floor plates, a 225-car parking garage, outdoor plaza, waterfront café, conference center, fitness center, and bank, the estimated $400 million, 60-story, 1.3 million-sq-ft structure occupies the northwest corner of North LaSalle Street and the Chicago River. Not only does the river location offer tenants and patrons some stunning views, but it also contributes to the site's sustainability.

“This building actually uses water from the Chicago River to eliminate heat from its chiller system,” notes Alvine. “To ensure reliability, we designed a redundant AB power system for chiller operation as well as for the electrified control valves on the system, which was a little unusual.”

According to Alvine, individual utility services on most of the 60 floors supply power to tenants. An approximately 1.5MW emergency generator, located in the 4-level below-grade parking area, provides protection in the event of a power failure, while an addressable fire alarm system integrated into the building's security system helps keep occupants safe.

“The structure also contains a significant amount of metering that can be measured at the services,” Alvine adds. “Furthermore, demand for the HVAC and lighting systems can be measured independently in order to perform demand-side management of the electrical loads through that metering.”

The extensive use of daylighting, occupancy sensors, and energy-efficient luminaires (including LED, T8, and fluorescent lamps) aids in reducing the amount of electricity consumed. In addition, lighting systems are configured as plug-and-play so tenants can distribute branch circuits as desired.

“The digital microprocessor-based lighting control system runs through the building management system,” says Alvine. “A core riser for the communications system associated with the lighting controls integrates into the building management system. So, if tenants choose to expand, they can connect to the central building management system. This entire system was designed to be modular and expandable.”

According to Alvine, the biggest challenge was achieving the LEED energy and atmosphere credits — and designing the building to be approximately 20% under the prevailing energy code. Nevertheless, the engineering firm's portion of the project, which took about 14 months, was completed on schedule.

“One of the biggest compliments we've received is that 300 North LaSalle has been talked about as one of the new landmarks in the Chicago skyline,” says Alvine. “Not only has the building been added to the Chicago River architectural tour, it's also being credited by the city as a great example of sustainable design.”

Photo courtesy of Hines Interests