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Private, public buildings go green

Illinois ranks No. 1 in LEED-certified space

Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 12:03 a.m. CDT
(Sarah Nader –
Linda Williams (left) of Johnsburg and Pat Sullivan-Schroyer of Johnsburg talk with Kim Compton during a butterfly gardening class March 19 at the Lost Valley Visitor Center in Ringwood. The center received a gold certification in 2011. Among the visitor center's green features are permeable pavers and rain gardens to help with storm water management, large windows to capture more natural daylight, motion sensor-activated lights to save electricity and the carpeting and the glass terrazzo floor in the main lobby made of recycled materials.

The Kohl’s store in Woodstock was built using recycled and regionally sourced materials. It has water-efficient landscaping and plumbing.

The front desk in the lobby of Glacial Park’s Lost Valley Visitor Center was created with reclaimed lumber from barns on McHenry County Conservation District property. Lots of windows allow the building to take advantage of natural daylight, and the lights in the main bathrooms and offices are activated by motion sensors.

The buildings are among the 14 LEED-certified buildings in McHenry County.

The green building certification – the acronym stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – is awarded to residential, commercial and public buildings, both new and existing, that use recycled materials, are located on sustainable sites and are energy and water efficient.

Illinois tops the list when it comes to the amount of square footage of LEED-certified space, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. The 171 projects that received LEED certification last year represent 29.4 million square feet, or 2.3 square feet per resident.

The next closest state was Maryland, with 119 projects representing 12.7 million square feet, or 2.20 square feet per resident, according to the council’s rankings.

“People think the buildings would look unusual,” said Brian Imus, the executive director of the council’s Illinois chapter. “I think people think they’d recognize a green building, that it’s designed to look different. In fact, lots of buildings are green, and the only way you might notice it’s a LEED building is because there’s a plaque.”

Imus credits Illinois’ robust sustainable building industry and policy leaders dedicated to building green for its No. 1 ranking.

“What’s fascinating is Illinois doesn’t take the lead on many things, but this is one place where for nearly two decades, there have been industry leaders who have been making green building a priority,” Imus said.

He pointed to several corporations who honed in on building green and have their headquarters in Illinois, including Grainger Industrial Supply, McDonald’s and United Airlines.

Other corporations, including Kohl’s and Starbucks, also have made a commitment to building green stores nationwide.

Two of Kohl’s stores in McHenry County are LEED certified, and of the 66 stores statewide, 19 are LEED-certified, 59 have the Environmental Protection Agency-sponsored Energy Star certification and six have charging stations for electric vehicles, spokeswoman Julia Fennelly said in an email.

“Kohl’s uses the [U.S. Green Building Council]’s LEED rating system to guide best practices in the design, construction and operations of our stores and corporate facilities,” she said. “LEED-certified buildings conserve natural resources, reduce operating costs and minimize strain on local infrastructure.”

The savings are one of the reasons the practices are catching on, Imus said. Employees also like working in sustainable buildings and for sustainable companies.

For example, the Lost Valley Visitor Center saves about $11,050 a year through its geothermal heating and air conditioning unit, conservation district spokeswoman Wendy Kummerer said. That doesn’t include electricity and water savings.

More needs to be done in sharing best practices among interested businesses though, Imus said.

The Lost Valley Visitor Center is trying to share information about energy efficiency. Throughout the building, there are markers that share information about green technology and what visitors can implement on a smaller scale in their homes and businesses.

“McHenry County Conservation District continues to try to position itself as a leader in green living, while also conveying the message to residents and visitors that there is a shared responsibility for the health of the natural community within and beyond conservation district boundaries,” Kummerer said.

“Every bit of initiative to implement green technologies wherever possible in businesses or in our own homes will help in the bigger picture of reducing the carbon footprint and ensuring a more sustainable future.”

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