Chicago’s New Luxury Condos Want to Be the City’s Greenest

Chicago’s first green residential tower aims to be the country’s most sustainable, the Chicago Tribune reported on Sunday.

The 62-story building, 340 on the Park, is expected to achieve a silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating, LEED’s third highest.

It’s a commendable intent for the building, whose first goal seemed to be luxury living. When construction on the Randolph Street complex began in 2005, early designs revealed that 340 would be an elegant complex; unit floors are said to be bamboo, not wood; views include Grant Park and Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. Three bedroom units with a den, ranging from 2,750 to 4,010 square feet begin at $1,990,000.

At first glance, it might seem like an unusual project for Related Midwest, known for its work with landmark residential and commercial properties. Renovating architectural treasures from the past is a far cry from equipping a new building with ecological tools for the future; but that’s exactly what Related Midwest did with 340.

Wi-fi that works in the pool area, health club and lobby isn’t the only nod to modern life at 340 on the Park. The building also includes an 11,000 gallon tank that will collect rainwater used to irrigate its two plant-filled outdoor areas and fully-insulated windows, plus a multi-story indoor garden on floor 25.

For a city as large as Chicago — which happens to be my home — residential construction is still going strong. (I can right now see three different under construction developments outside my living room window. And they all appear to be using jackhammers today.) I’m surprised more residential buildings haven’t sought silver LEED ratings. But I’m encouraged that the developers of this one did.

Local government has already gone green: A Cook County ordinance, passed in 2002, requires all new county buildings to be LEED certified. Related Midwest’s decision to add sustainability to its construction to-do list — giving it equal importance to luxury and look — is hopefully indicative of local developers beginning to embrace the trend. And soon, we’ll be known as much for our green design passion as for our pizza. (Well, maybe.)