Greening of Chicago Starts at the Top Floor

The Washington Post describes Chicago’s leadership in planting flowers and trees and greening rooftops. Excerpts below.

Link: Greening of Chicago Starts at the Top Floor

Atop the scalding eighth-floor roof of the Chicago Cultural Center, workers dripped sweat as they planted row upon tidy row of hardy plants, the latest signal of one big-city government’s determination to be green.

On other downtown rooftops, tall corkscrew-shaped turbines will bridle the winds that race across the plains. A new roof on Chicago’s vast convention center will channel 55 million gallons of rainwater a year into Lake Michigan instead of overburdened storm drains.

Skeptics snickered 17 years ago when Mayor Richard M. Daley added flowers and trees to the city’s honey-do list.

Since Daley began investing tax dollars in greening the city, Chicago has planted as many as 400,000 trees, according to city spokesmen. It employs more arborists than any city in the country. There are 2.5 million square feet of green roofs completed or under construction, boosted by expedited permitting and density bonuses for developers who embrace the concept.

Daley is an especially big fan of green roofs. The City Hall roof, planted with more than 150 varieties of plants, is often 50 degrees cooler in summer than nearby asphalt roofs, whose temperatures can reach 170 degrees. It also houses beehives.

Earlier this year, the city issued $1 million in grants for solar thermal panels that generate hot water. Staffers focused on high-volume water users, including laundromats and health clubs. For the past year, the city has waived a service fee — typically $5,000 to $50,000 — for developers willing to install a green roof. The projects are assigned to reviewers empowered to expedite approval.