There’s a reason GreenBuild 2007, the green building industry’s major conference and expo, is going to be in Chicago. The city is just busting at the seams with progressive thinkers and eco-entrepreneurs. Recently, I noticed a news report about Baum Development rehabbing the old Cooper Lamp Factory in Logan Square into a one-stop, live-work, shopping center of green businesses and activities. It’s going to be called the Green Exchange.  The four-story, 250,000 square foot building, located at 2545 West Diversey Avenue, will be renovated to LEED Silver standards with a variety of uses including retail, showroom galleries, office, and incubator lofts. 

The Baum Development team is planning on some aggressive green renovations. The parking spaces will have electrical outlets for hybrid cars, but that’s not all: hybrids have priority parking privileges. There will be a 9.000 square foot sky garden, solar panels on the roof, and a roof garden. A rainwater cistern will collect water for the gardens and landscaping. Some other green features include the high-efficiency HVAC system, eco-friendly paints and stains, bike room and showers, car sharing services, and energy-efficient doors and windows. In total, Baum will spend about $30 million outfitting the old facility with the latest and greatest in green building technologies.

The project is not without its skeptics. One such argument is that environmentally-friendly products and businesses only cater to about 25% of the consumer market. The inference being that it’s a bad business idea to target 25% of the market, especially if there’s a softening in consumer demand for green products. Portland, Oregon has a similar green market that has been highly successful. The Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center has about 20 tenants in 70,000 square feet of space. The owners say their market has been very successful and they get calls for space all the time. In fact, they feel they could double the space and still do great.

So, Chicago: what do you think? Are you going to make the commitment to speak with your wallet and frequent businesses that try to pollute less, recycle more, and conserve more? Are you going to buy things that improve the health and quality of life? It’s a loaded question, but I’d like to know what you think…

Via Chicago Tribune & Baum Development.  Cross-posted at Green Options