Our Kind of Town

June 1, 2004
Our Kind of TownTry this exercise . . . close your eyes and picture the City of Chicago. What comes to mind? Lake Michigan, surely, plus many of the city's other famous attractions: The Field Museum, Navy Pier, The Shedd Aquarium and, perhaps, the Art Institute of Chicago or Wrigley Field. Or maybe you thought about the good food, great shopping and magnificent architecture available in this Midwest mecca. What most people probably don't know about Chicago, though, is that its mayor, Richard M. Daley, is firmly committed to making his town "the greenest and most environmentally friendly city in America." Why? Because he knows that protecting the environment makes sense both economically and politically. His scorecard is looking pretty impressive:* Chicago is the most bicycle-friendly city in the nation, with 30 miles of bike paths, 93 miles of designated bicycle lanes on city streets, and more bike racks than any other city in the United States.* Over the last 11 years, the city has reduced daily water use by 160 million gallons, primarily by replacing old water mains. Installing buttons on outdoor water fountains is saving an additional 1.2 million gallons of water per day.* Since a rooftop garden was created on City Hall, more than 80 such gardens have been constructed, or are planned, on top of public and private buildings around the city. * The city's new libraries and police stations have solar panels, reflective roofs and high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, which reduce energy and operating costs. * Chicago is currently acquiring 45 hybrid vehicles, which will reduce emissions and save taxpayers' money. * The Center for Green Technology on the city's West Side is the first municipal building in the world to be awarded a LEED Platinum rating, and one of only six buildings worldwide with that distinction. * The City Energy Plan, adopted in 2001, calls for 20 percent of the energy used by city facilities to come from renewable sources by 2006.In the midst of all this green activity, you will undoubtedly find Doug Farr, founder and president of Farr Associates Architecture and Urban Design, and his fellow firm principals, Jonathan Boyer and Kevin Pierce. In fact, you probably couldn't find a better home for this trio than Chicago, where their unique blending of New Urbanism planning and environmentally conscious architecture is not only welcomed, but wholeheartedly embraced. As you will discover when reading this issue's cover story, they are linked with some of the city's greenest achievements (Farr Associates was the lead architect for the Center for Green Technology) and continue to push the envelope when it comes to the creation of sustainable human environments, not only where people work, but also where they live and play.We're thrilled that Farr Associates have invited us into their new green home during NeoCon. On Tuesday afternoon, NeoCon attendees can preview the recently renovated offices for the firm, located in the historic Monadnock Building, a pilot project for the LEED-Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI) rating system. Presented by Interiors & Sources, Kevin Pierce will walk participants through the space and describe how the firm worked to apply LEED-CI to an existing, historically significant space. Specifically, the CEU-accredited tour will highlight the challenges and rewards of working within an historic context to maintain and augment a healthful, functional and attractive work space.The tour of the new Farr Associates' headquarters is part of a whole series of green programs being sponsored by Interiors & Sources at this year's NeoCon, planned in conjunction with the Merchandise Mart, which enthusiastically supports its city's philosophy of promoting environmental initiatives. First is the Green Guide to NeoCon, which, as its name implies, guides NeoCon attendees to exhibitors that are taking a proactive stance in applying sustainable design tenets to both product design and manufacturing processes. Interiors & Sources also sponsors the Environmental Design seminars and an informal Green Walk of showrooms displaying eco-friendly products. Finally, we are the sponsor of the GREENlife exhibit, designed by TVS, that conveys the profound and far-reaching impact design decisions have on the natural and built environment. Frank Sinatra once sang that Chicago is, "One town that won't let you down." The same could certainly be said about NeoCon. Each year, thousands of us make our annual pilgrimage to the Windy City because we know that the few days we spend at the Merchandise Mart will uncover the colors, shapes, finishes, functions and technology that will influence the design of commercial environments in the coming years.NeoCon 2004 will most certainly be a spectacular event, a celebration of great design, creative solutions and, this year, a prevailing endorsement of the positive impact of good green works. So welcome to NeoCon, and to Chicago, where there's certainly more to both than meets the eye.

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