1244 N. Clybourn Map
Mercy Housing Lakefront
Near North SRO is a 5-story, 96 unit single room occupancy that will be home to those on the CHA waiting list or at risk of homelessness. The average unit is only 300 square feet, but like many modern SROs, includes a private kitchen and bath. Social services are housed on the first floor. The project is under construction and targeting LEED Certification.
The combination of a internationally known architect and some fairly exotic green elements make this project an excellent attention-getter to raise the profile of green building. Some discussions of the project, including the current Sustainable Architecture in Chicago exhibit at the MCA, present it as a model of green affordable housing. However, the unusual design and systems may be both difficult and expensive for others to emulate. I prefer to view it as an exemplar of what can be done on a demonstration project, like a concept car, with some features that may eventually be found in many projects.
The building's twinkie-like form and use of stainless-steel siding are strongly reminiscent of Jahn's IIT dorm, State Street Village. It's interesting to see Jahn, designer of the famously uncomfortable and energy-hogging State of Illinois Center, held out as a poster boy of green. However, his German projects such as the naturally-ventilated Deutsche Post Tower suggest a change of heart. Perhaps this is the influence of German building simulation experts Transsolar, one of Jahn's consultants of choice. Transsolar explored natural ventilation concepts for this project, but unfortunately none were included - the Loyola Information Commons is a better example of this firm's work in progress in Chicago.
The project's most unusual feature is a greywater system that collects water from showers and lavatories, stores it in a cistern in the basement, then filters and treats the water before delivering it to the toilets. The Chicago Building Code has no regulations for greywater systems and requires potable water to be delivered to all plumbing fixtures (including toilets!) - this system obtained approval from the Committee on Standards and Tests. This was the first greywater system approved in Chicago - one more has been approved since.
The most obvious green feature is the row of cylindrical Aerotecture wind turbines along the peak of the roof. This product is often mounted vertically to allow the turbine to take advantage of wind from any direction - the horizontal mounting is a small compromise to complement the building's design. The turbines do face the prevailing winds and the building's shape may even help to maximize wind speed at the peak of the roof.
Permeable pavement was also proposed for the parking lot, but on a recent building tour I learned it may not be included because of cost concerns. Interior finishes are fairly minimal, with exposed concrete ceilings in the units - this might be considered a nominally green feature (materials reduction) not captured in LEED. Project completion is expected in February 2007. Other project team members include MEP engineer ESD, structural engineer Graef Anhalt Schloemer, and general contractor Linn-Mathes.