Chicago Awaits a LEED Aqua Tower


Chicago has a new 82-story tower on its skyline that is due for completion in the Spring of 2010.  But in a city of grids and rectilinear forms, the AQUA tower has a distinctive character with a more fluid appearance coming from the deep projecting balconies which are reminiscent of geologic rock formations.  Designed by Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects, AQUA is also currently the tallest structure designed by a woman-led firm.


The project is pursuing LEED certification, but only at the basic (Certified) level.  As such, it does not have a long checklist of impressive green features or innovations that are being touted.  Still, with nearly 2 million square feet of space, it is certainly a significant LEED project, and one of the largest green buildings anywhere.

The mixed-use building incorporates high-rise residential, hotel, and retail uses.  The building is being developed by Magellan Development, and Studio Gang worked with Lowenberg & Associates, who were the Architect of Record for the project.

The distinctive balconies which give the building its character are cantilevered from the face of the building as much as 12 feet.  Each floor has a unique footprint.  The form of the building was developed with specific consideration of the other nearby existing buildings as well as the desirable views and landmarks in the area.

The deep overhangs from these balconies will help with providing shading and reducing heat gain during the cooling season.  However, concrete is also a good conductor of heat, and will radiate heat from the building during the winter.  But, as Studio Gang notes, these balconies provide “strong connection to the outdoors and allow inhabitants to occupy the building façade and city simultaneously.



Aqua Tower by karla kaulfuss

Photo & story credits: Studio Gang, Chicago Tribune, karla kaulfuss.

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  • Mrs. LEED Certification

    Great designs. I love that building green can be fun and exciting. The concept of the Aqua tower in Chicago,IL seems to be a candidate for LEED Silver Level or higher. Much success to this project striving for LEED certification and any future projects to come.

  • Portland Condo Auctions

    Very cool looking, I am surprised that this is actually almost done being built and is not just a concept. Though, I honestly dont think that many people are going to spend much time on the high cold and windy balconies. Chicago is not really the place to hang out outside.


  • Anonymous

    Actually, the building is designed to be a perfect radiator with the lake winds sucking therms right out of the building. Think about how much r-value is effectively reduced in a typical wood wall,. Take that assembly turn it on it’s side and imagine the scale to where the stud spacings are equivalent floor to floor heigh and you get the idea. And that’s with the thermal properties of wood and the edges sheathed! Would like to see the actual energy use on this one. Cooling load might be reduce in the summer month. LEED? It better be the best darned glass on this plane or any other. Beautiful form – performance nightmare IMHO.

  • Concrete Grinding

    Unbelievable! Great work!

  • Anonymous

    Terrible building, floor slabs act as radiating fins and too much glass.  Not sustainable at all

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