Sears Tower has announced modernization plans to create unparalleled energy savings, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and promote economic development in Chicago's West Loop by creating more than 3,600 jobs.
A green building retrofit isn't the only change in store for the skyscraper, which opened its doors in 1973. The building is also getting a new name, the Willis Tower. London-based Willis Group Holdings has purchased the naming rights to the building, much like corporations do for sports arenas and stadiums.
"Sears Tower, an iconic structure that defines the city's skyline, will undergo a groundbreaking transformation that creates economic growth with positive impact on our environment, leaving a lasting legacy for future generations," said John Huston of American Landmark Properties, representing the partnership that owns Sears Tower. "As the stewards of this icon, we take seriously our responsibility to make it relevant and successful, and the changes made and benefits realized through the bold sustainable initiatives at the tower serve as an example that a sustainable future is more than a concept, it is within our reach."
The building, which already meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria, will undertake sustainability initiatives that will surpass those used by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Modernization strategies, designed by Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG), include:
- Efficiency improvements to the building's exterior envelope and windows. The tower has 16,000 single-pane windows. Sustainability plans for the building call for a window replacement and glazing program. Strategies to achieve a thermal break of the curtain wall are also being investigated.
- Mechanical systems upgrades in the form of new gas boilers that utilize fuel cell technologies. Mechanical upgrades also will include new high-efficiency chillers and upgrades to the distribution system.
- Modernization of the tower's 104 high-speed elevators and 15 escalators with the latest technology to achieve 40 percent reduction in their energy consumption.
- Water savings that will be realized with conservation initiatives through upgrades to restroom fixtures, condensation recovery systems and water efficient landscaping, which will save 24 million gallons of water each year.
- Lighting upgrades through advanced lighting control systems and daylight harvesting. This lighting control system will automatically dim lights in tenant spaces based on the amount of sunlight entering through the windows.
- Renewable energy like wind and solar, and technologies like green roofs. Wind turbines will be tested to take advantage of the tower's height and unique set-back roof areas. Solar hot-water panels will help heat water for the building. Green roofs that can sustain high-altitude conditions will be tested to reduce storm water runoff, improve insulation, help mitigate the urban heat island effect and provide pleasant vistas for tenants overlooking the areas.
As an important part of the modernization program, Sears Tower's plazas and retail spaces will also undergo changes. A new park at Wacker Drive and Adams Street will add landscaping and public seating. The Adams Street granite wall will be replaced with an interactive digital display, glass storefronts and trees.
Another aspect of the transformation is a proposed privately funded hotel for the site at Jackson Boulevard and Wacker Drive. The hotel will be designed for a LEED Gold rating and fill a critical need in the West Loop.
In addition, the project will feature a dynamic Sustainable Technology Learning Center that is designed to help building visitors and Chicago tourists learn about ways to save energy and money.
The cost of construction for the Sears Tower project is estimated at $350 million. A number of private and public financing and funding options are being explored. The majority of the energy savings will be realized in approximately five years and work will start immediately.