Willis Tower Slashes Energy Usage, Achieves LEED Gold

by | Nov 12, 2018

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(Photo Credit: Ferd Brundick, Flickr Creative Commons)

Iconic Chicago skyscraper Willis Tower has earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold from the US Green Building Council. The building is currently undergoing a major renovation that includes numerous improvements to energy efficiency.

Owned and managed by EQ Office, 110-story Willis Tower is undergoing a renovation worth more than half a billion dollars. It’s the most extensive transformation in the building’s 43-year history. Construction is adding 300,000 square feet of new retail, dining, and entertainment space, 125,000 square feet of tenant amenities, and a 30,000-square-foot outdoor deck and garden.

Willis Tower achieved an initial LEED v2009 certification as well as the recertification tasks using the more recent update to the rating system, LEED v4.1, which emphasizes performance and tracks progress through the Arc platform, EQ Office says.

“I’m witnessing a historic and great transition from old to new,” says Gary Michon, Willis Tower’s general manager, told Energy Manager Today earlier this year. In February, the skyscraper became the largest office building to earn Energy Star certification. An elevator modernization project that began over the summer is expected to cut energy usage by around 35%.

Wisconsin-based energy consulting firm Rivion worked with the building’s team to plan and implement energy saving initiatives. Upgrades to Willis Tower include:

  • Installing high-efficiency lighting systems with improved controls to reduce energy consumption, including the LED antenna lighting system
  • Improving the HVAC exhaust and return fan dampers
  • Introducing all new air media, fan gearboxes, and fan blades plus installing new variable frequency drives to all four of the building’s cooling towers for around 20% savings on electric energy consumed
  • Replacing all automatic transfer switches to enhance the building’s electrical infrastructure integrity

“Willis Tower has long been one of the most iconic skyscrapers of the Chicago skyline, so it is fitting for it to be a sustainability leader as well by achieving LEED Gold,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of the US Green Building Council.

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