Chicago: the green construction trend-setter

Chicago municipality has recently launched the new West Cemark Street: an outstanding green street model that involves different high technologies for sustainable construction. A $ 14M project with photovoltaic devices, LED lighting systems, drainage areas, and an Italian patented “smog-eating” cement produced by Italcementi.

The Italian leading manufacturer developed a special photo-catalytic cement: TX-Active. It activates the photocatalysis process: the natural oxidation of many air polluting chemicals that transforms benzene, nitrogen oxides and dioxides, and several other toxic substances into harmless ones. The product is used in construction coverings and it’s a widely well-known technology that provided performing benefits.TX Active by Italcementi
For example the EU Project PICADA (Photocatalytic Innovative Coverings Application for Depollution Assessment) in 2005-2009, highlighted relevant anti-pollution benefits of the urban use of photocatalytic coverings. Five years ago the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in the US, used photocatalytic coverings and paints in the American House of the Year, a prototype house realized as a green construction and house technology trend-setting project.



The same Italian company produces a wide range of photo-active products: from air pollution focused coverings, cement and paints, to specially designed construction materials for prestige architecture projects, that comply with the most important European regulations. A world-famous project is the Dives in Misericordia church in Rome, designed by arch. Richard Meier with a self-cleaning anti-pollution cement. Many other buildings have been also realized in Italy, France (Charles De Gaulle Airport) or United States.

Dives in misericordia church - Rome - Photo by Giorgio Clementi -

Dives in misericordia church – Rome – Photo by Giorgio Clementi –

The West Cemark Street in Chicago has been widely covered by world media also because of its bioswales: urban landforms used to convey surface water in order to enhance infiltration and reduce surface runoff. Bioswales are typically moderate gradient devices (approximately one to five percent in channel slope) and may be covered by grasses, landscape fabric, mulch or other vegetation or leaf litter.

These systems intercept large quantities of surface runoff from low permeability man-made surfaces, such as parking lots, roadways and roofs. Thus bioswales may be useful in industrial parks, office complexes, retail centers and high density apartment projects. Particularly important applications occur around parking lots and roadways, where substantial water pollutants are generated from vehicular fluids and conveyed by rainfall runoff to natural receiving waters, in the absence of a bioswale or retention pond.

In addition to water pollution control discussed above, the bioswale may have substantial benefits in flood control, where receiving waters are subject to periodic flooding; this outcome is produced since greater infiltration and reduced surface runoff are products of the bioswale landform. Furthermore, beyond the mere interception of water pollutants travelling to receiving waters, residence in the bioswale trap may allow actual decomposition or destruction of certain of these pollutants. For example, nitrogen and phosphorus pollutant loads may be comsumed in vegetation growth within the bioswale.

While everybody is talking about smart cities, the technologies used in the Chicago project are a best practice of concrete integration of urban planning, infrastructures realization and buildings construction. A performing system that deserves to be exported worldwide, especially in new markets like South Africa, China, India, where contract and turnkey construction industry deals with relevant and complex projects, with the highest ecological and architectonic impact.

West Cemark Street plan - Chicago

West Cemark Street plan – Chicago

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