Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan rendering by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan rendering by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

Moving forward on the Chicago Climate Action Plan in conjunction with city government, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill (AS+GG) has released the first phase of its Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan. Targeting the Windy City’s downtown Loop area, the action plan aims to reduce carbon emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and then meet 2030 Challenge goals of 100 percent carbon emissions reduction in new and renovated buildings by 2030.

The DeCarbonization Plan lists eight key strategies to meet the city’s goals: 


  • “Buildings” examines how existing structures may be upgraded or retrofitted to improve their energy efficiency;

  • “Urban Matrix” focuses on means of increasing the Loop’s residential density such as enhancing amenities, adding schools, and converting aging commercial buildings to residential structures;

  • “Smart Infrastructure” examines energy generation, storage, and distribution;

  • “Mobility” assesses transit operations and options;

  • “Water” focuses on both water use and conversation;

  • “Waste” addresses citywide processes and systems for reducing waste, recycling waste, and waste disposal;

  • “Community Engagement” focuses on involving Chicago residents in the green agenda; and 

  • “Energy,” examines existing and new energy sources.


Credit: © Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

Credit: © Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

“The plan is part of our drive for a broader understanding of energy and carbon, and how that understanding can apply to cities and institutions,” says Gordon Gill. “One of the most exciting aspects of the plan is that it envisions a repositioning of aging buildings as real estate, transforming them from deficits to assets. Ultimately, the goal of the plan is to leverage the latent assets of the built environment to save money and invite new development with zero impact on the urban ecosystem. The results will be a new economy that improves energy and carbon performance as well as the overall quality of life in the Loop.”

Specific concepts noted in the plan include a below-grade pedway system to make the Loop more walkable in extreme weather; a green corridor; repurposing underground tunnels for waste disposal; extending the city’s riverwalk and bicycle paths; and publishing a textbook for public and private school curriculum addressing urban design and decarbonization. The plan also analyzes funding available to developers and building owners for green retrofits.

The second phase of the DeCarbonization Plan will focus on adapting the plan to educational campuses, municipalities, states, and countries around the world. For more details and renderings of the plan, visit smithgill.com