The tallest building in the U.S. is about to get a $350 million green makeover as part of a plan to cut electricity use by 80% and save 24 million gallons of water each year. The goal of the project, according to developers, is to turn the Sears Tower into a living laboratory for green retrofits. It’s an ambitious plan for the building, which contains 4.5 million square feet of space, 104 elevators, and 16,000 windows.
Sears Tower, now on track to become the tallest building to receive LEED certification, will receive a laundry list of upgrades designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture over the next five years: solar panels and wind turbines on the roof, up to 35,000 square feet of roof gardens, an energy-efficient lighting control system, insulation improvements, new plumbing systems, and a green learning center on the ground floor. The renovation is expected to create 3,600 jobs. Much of the cost of the retrofit, financed through grants, private investments, government cash, and debt financing, will be offset by energy savings.
The Sears retrofit comes only a few months after the owners of the Empire State Building announced a $20 million retrofit to cut annual energy use by 38%. The project isn’t anywhere near the scale of the Sears renovation–Sears is 110 stories tall to the Empire State Building’s 102 stories, and the Chicago retrofit will cost hundreds of millions more. Both retrofits, however, will serve as green demonstration projects if developers make sure that visitors and tenants understand how the technologies used can be applied to other projects.