The Chicago Center For Green Technology Rises From An Illegal Landfill To Become The City’s Premier Resource For Green Education And Sustainable Community Initiatives


The building, originally erected in 1952, now showcases over 40,000 square feet of state-of-the-art environmental features including solar panels, rainwater collection for irrigation, recycled materials, smart lighting, a geothermal exchange system, and a green roof. It is the nation’s first rehabilitated municipal building to receive LEED Platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The Center is home to a number of companies that focus on environmental and sustainable design. It also acts as a community resource and CDOE satellite office, offering a range of educational classes for professionals and homeowners and a testament that green technology is cost-effective and good for the environment. “In essence, it has become an educational nexus, offering a Green Building Resource Center and over 150 classes per year,” adds Moloney. The Center is also a registered AIA provider for architects working towards LEED certification.

In 1995, the Chicago Department of Environment (CDOE) faced a formidable task. CDOE began clean-up of over 17 acres and 600,000 tons of concrete and construction debris dumped illegally by Sacramento Crushing, a company that was permitted to collect and recycle construction and demolition material but that had far exceeded the parameters of its permit. As a result, the facility and its grounds were littered with 70-foot-high piles of debris, some so dense that they sunk 15 feet into the ground.

The CDOE successfully fought Sacramento Crushing in court and not only closed down their operation but also became the owner of the site itself. It was then DOE’s job to clean up this brownfield. The clean-up involved over 45,000 truckloads of debris hauled off the property over about 18 months and cost the city approximately nine million dollars. The city recouped some of the clean-up cost by selling the concrete debris and other materials to recycling firms and to other city departments for use in municipal projects. For example, some of the crushed concrete was used by the Chicago Department of Transportation to lay the parking garage foundation at the new Millennium Park.

By 1999, CDOE was the proud owner of a clean, uncontaminated site with a vacant building. Rather than simply renovating the structure using traditional building methods, they seized the opportunity to design and develop an environmentally sustainable building, using some of the most sophisticated green technology available. The CDOE enlisted the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment and formed a design team for the project. This team of local architects, led by Farr Associates, redesigned the building and property using LEED® (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) guidelines, as established by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“This was the perfect opportunity to show that old buildings in urban landscapes can be renovated to the highest level of environmental sustainability,” said Sarah Moloney, Project Coordinator for the City of Chicago.


The facility also acts as a hub for data collection and sampling, testing the latest in green technology. Two years after opening, the Chicago Center for Green Technology installed two high-speed XLERATOR® hand dryers. “With over 30,000 visitors per year, we were using an awful lot of paper towels,” said Moloney.

Unlike conventional hand dryers, which average 30 to 45 seconds of drying time, XLERATOR dries hands three times faster (completely in 10 seconds*) and uses 80% less energy than conventional hand dryers. XLERATOR represents a 95% cost savings when compared to paper towels, reduces the need for maintenance, and improved restroom hygiene. XLERATOR is also the only hand dryer to be MADE IN USA Certified, the first hand dryer to be GreenSpec® Listed and helps facilities qualify for LEED credits.

In 2009, two XLERATOR hand dryers with custom graphic covers were installed. These dryers include an educational “Good for the Environment” message for guests to read while drying their hands. In addition to offering superior functionality, the hand dryers’ sleek stainless steel covers compliment the facility’s modern design.

To meet the aesthetic needs of architects and designers, Excel Dryer Inc., manufacturer of XLERATOR, offers customers a wide range of finishes including traditional white, brushed stainless steel, vandalism-resistant bulk molded compound, fingerprint resistant textured graphite, and other metallic finishes.

Excel also offers exclusive patented digital imaging technology that allows the dryers to be branded with a fully integrated design, rather than a sticker or other surface brand that could easily be marred or removed. Buyers can supply their own digital artwork or develop the cover graphics with the help of Excel Dryer’s design team.

Using hand dryers also keep the restrooms cleaner and easier to maintain. According to Moloney, “Guests are totally satisfied with this hand dryer, and are amazed by how quickly it works!”

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