Chicago Transit Authority HQ

CTA makes its green offices even greener with LEED-EB Gold status
August 11, 2010

When the Chicago Transit Authority put the finishing touches on its sparkling new, 12-story headquarters in late 2004, the 400,000-sf complex was already one of the greenest office buildings in the city.

Although not LEED certified, the facility was designed to LEED standards with sustainable features like a 29,000-sf vegetated roof, high-efficiency mechanical systems, CFC-free chillers, low-flow water fixtures, and extensive daylighting. The headquarters also has bicycle storage and locker rooms with showers, as well as recycling and green cleaning programs in place.

But that wasn't enough for the building's manager, Trans-western, which approached CTA officials in early 2006 about getting the facility certified under USGBC's LEED for Existing Buildings program.

“We told the CTA that we'd perform any necessary services associated with the certification at no cost to them,” says Allan Skodowski, SVP with Transwestern, who led the LEED-EB certification process. “We only asked them to pay for the LEED registration and certification, and they were all for it.”

Skodowski says an initial evaluation of the building showed that it was already near LEED-EB Silver level. With some tweaks, such as switching to recycled paper products in the restrooms and using low-mercury fluorescent bulbs throughout the building, a Silver rating was certainly attainable. But Skodowski thought the building could achieve Gold.

A crucial step was commissioning the building's MEP systems. Transwestern's on-sight maintenance staff performed the commissioning, which resulted in fine-tuning of various mechanical systems and equipment. The outcome was an immediate 12% reduction in utility expenses. “The CTA agreed to upgrade filters and install airflow measuring stations,” says Skodowski. “The upgrades helped improve the building's overall Energy Star score by four points, up to 87, in addition to reducing utility costs.”

Transwestern stepped up the building's recycling program from 30% to 60% waste and expanded it to include products like batteries. Indoor air quality and low-impact pest control programs were implemented. The firm also established a low-impact construction policy and mandated C&D waste recycling, with a goal of diverting 75% of waste from landfills. “We actually exceeded that goal at no extra cost on the two construction jobs that took place during the performance period,” says Skodowski.

The CTA headquarters officially achieved LEED-EB Gold status in May, becoming the first LEED-EB-certified building in Illinois. For Transwestern, which manages and develops millions of square feet of property across the U.S., the CTA headquarters is the first of dozens of LEED-certified projects that are in the works.

“We wanted to learn the LEED process so that we can offer it to all our clients,” says Skodowski, who is leading multiple LEED-EB projects, including a Gold-rated building in Denver and a 51-building package that is registered with the USGBC as part of its LEED-EB Portfolio pilot program. “The goal ultimately is if you hire Transwestern, you'll get a sustainability program that matches LEED as closely as we can get it. If you want to do certification, we'll help you with that too.”