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O'Hare building home to city's largest green roof

Friday, October 07, 2011
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Next time you take off or land at O'Hare International Airport, take a look at the rooftops that surround the runways.

Twelve green rooftops are already at O'Hare and Midway airports. Two more are under construction. But the one top of the new FedEx building has real bragging rights -- the only airport with a bigger green roof is in Frankfort, Germany.

O'Hare Airport is more than just a hub for millions of travelers; It's also fast becoming a beacon for sustainability. FedEx recently constructed a new sort facility because their old building was in the direct path of the new runway being built under the O'Hare modernization program. The new building is now leed gold-certified and houses a 175,000-square foot green roof. That's as big as three football fields. Deputy Commissioner of Sustainability Amy Malick says the roof will offer several environmental benefits.

"Green roofs act like a sponge for heat, light and water and they conserve energy by maintaining a constant temperature inside the building. They also help to collect storm water," Malick said.

Like many vegetated roofs, this one is covered with sedum. Sedum is a low-growing plant that flowers and blooms, but is also drought tolerant. and that's not the only benefit.

"We selected sedum species which are specifically not bird-attracting species, which is important to the airport environment because birds are a hazard to airplanes," Malick said.

The green roof is just one area where FedEx is embracing sustainability. The company recently rolled out six new all-electric vehicles delivering in the loop. The vans, like the green roof, are expected to promote energy efficiency and save money. For the Chicago Department Of Aviation -- it's a win-win.

"We are going to save considerable amounts of energy and we've anticipated that FedEx will be saving twenty cents per square foot of green roof per year on energy costs alone," Malick said.

It's estimated that FedEx's new green roof will be able to absorb about two million gallons of storm water per year. That water would otherwise run off into the sewer system.

Find out more about the project and the materials used at greenroofs.com, flychicago.com, and oharemodernization.org.

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