Standing tall -- south control tower at O'Hare wins award for green building

  • The south air traffic control at O'Hare International Airport won a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design on Monday. Typically the facility is off-limits to civilians, but the media briefly was allowed in Monday.

      The south air traffic control at O'Hare International Airport won a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design on Monday. Typically the facility is off-limits to civilians, but the media briefly was allowed in Monday. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

  • Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee speaks about the south air traffic control at O'Hare International Airport as other officials including Mayor Rahm Emanuel listen Monday.

      Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee speaks about the south air traffic control at O'Hare International Airport as other officials including Mayor Rahm Emanuel listen Monday. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

  • A geothermal system assists in heating and cooling the south air traffic control at O'Hare International Airport, which won a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Monday.

      A geothermal system assists in heating and cooling the south air traffic control at O'Hare International Airport, which won a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Monday. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

  • The south air traffic control at O'Hare International Airport won a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Monday. Typically the facility is off-limits to civilians, but the media was allowed in Monday briefly.

      The south air traffic control at O'Hare International Airport won a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Monday. Typically the facility is off-limits to civilians, but the media was allowed in Monday briefly. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/22/2019 6:54 PM

Standing 207 feet tall, it dominates the south side of O'Hare International Airport. But the South Air Traffic Control Tower's claim to fame is located more than 100 feet below the imposing structure.

The facility where controllers watch over O'Hare's southernmost runway (10-Right/28-Left) won a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold award.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The green building features an energy-saving geothermal system that uses 55-degree temperatures underneath the ground to assist with heating and cooling the tower complex. That's complemented by a green roof on a connected building that absorbs temperature extremes, while low-flow plumbing saves water.

"We're not only known as the busiest airport in America, we're now the greenest airport," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday.

The Federal Aviation Administration is committed to "reducing greenhouse gas emissions, engaging in effective water conservation, reducing waste and working to develop sustainable buildings," FAA Great Lakes Regional Administrator Rebecca MacPherson said.

The structure also contains worker-friendly features such as glass walls on the tower itself, and windows throughout the building that lessen the need for electricity and are a contrast to the typical "concrete bunker" design of air traffic facilities, MacPherson said.

The tower was finished in 2015 and along with Runway 10-Right/28-Left represented the completion of improvements to the south airfield. The city is still finishing a redo of the north airfield's runways.

Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee said a new "sustainable plan" for O'Hare terminals will be unveiled at an international Airports Going Green conference hosted by the city this November.

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