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Chicago Permits Ever Greener

Chicago Permits Ever Greener

By Jay W. Schneider, Senior Editor | August 11, 2010
This article first appeared in the 200710 issue of BD+C.

It's been more than two years since the Chicago Department of Construction and Permits (DCAP) initiated its Green Permit Program in April 2005, allowing projects to quality for fast permitting by meeting certain green guidelines. Green permit approvals average six weeks while traditional permits average 12 weeks.

Through September 2007, the city has issued a total of 158 green permits (19 in 2005; 72 in 2006; and 67 in 2007, with a target of 100 by year's end), and while that's just a fraction of the approximately 50,000 permits Chicago issues each year, interest in green permits is growing.

Projects qualifying for green permits fall into one of three tiers, each requiring certain LEED certification and one or two extras from the DCAP's green “menu.” Some or all consultant fees are reimbursed for Tier II and III projects.

For builders and developers interested in green permits, Erik Olsen, Green Projects Administrator for DCAP, suggests the following: understand what's necessary, plan for it early in the design process, and focus on team coordination.

New Ordinance for Stormwater
Starting January 1, 2008, all new developments and redevelopments of 15,000 sf or more (7,000 sf for parking lots) in Chicago will have to minimize their stormwater run-off. The rapid rate of construction in the city has led to more impermeable surfaces and resulting run-off. The new ordinance will require all new projects to catch the first half-inch of rain water, preventing it from running into sewers or waterways. That first half-inch of rain is the most important, according to the city, because it contains the most pollutants, thus contaminating the water system into which it is deposited. Those developments that don't directly discharge to waters or to a municipal separate storm sewer system must instead achieve a 15% reduction in impervious surfaces.

The ordinance leaves it up to developers to figure out how to meet the half-inch-retention requirement. Acceptable solutions include bioswales, rain gardens, green roofs, rain barrels and cisterns, and permeable pavement—or all of the above. —Kristin Foster, Editorial Intern

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