Greenest Sustainable Street in America

Since I moved to Chicago this city has continue to amaze me day after day. Having lived in New York for the past five years, I can really appreciate the long list of Chicago’s sustainable efforts. A couple weeks ago, as I was walking through the industrial section of the Pilsen neighborhood, I discovered the almost invisible, first LED light poles powered by solar and wind generators. This cleverly positioned slender energy kiosks allowed me to discover the brilliant America’s Greenest Street.
Cermak road in Chicago has become America’s greenest street, this impeccable urban development features natural landscaping, bicycle lanes, wind powered lighting, storm water diversion for irrigation, drought-resistant native plants, recycled materials, and the innovative “smog-eating” concrete [1].
This $14 million project just finished its first phase on October 2012, the initiative aims to reduce the overall energy usage of the area by 42%. The project’s up to date data demonstrate a reduction of 21% buildable cost [1].
The project’s innovation lies on the new idea of Smog-Eating cement, this was created under the desire of maintaining the original façade’s white colors over time without having to spend thousands on manual labor. The photocatalytic cement (named Smog-Eating) reflects light rather than absorb it [2]. It is comprises of nano titanium dioxide particles that are specifically designed to clean the surface of the street, it eats up pollution and grime off the roads by eliminating the nitrogen oxide toxic particles off the air through the catalytic reaction driven by UV light. In other words, the Smog-Eating cement it’s not only self-cleaning but it cleans the air up to 8 ft above the ground. Moreover, 30% of the installed sidewalk concrete and roadways is recycled based of reclaimed asphalt pavement, slag, ground, tire rubber and reclaimed asphalt shingles [1].
In addition, the streetscapes feature 95 drought-tolerant, native plant species, and have a sophisticated storm-water drainage system that consists of permeable pavers, and infiltration planters. This are expected to withstand Chicago’s hot summers. They also consume CO2 and reduce the heat-island effect of paved surfaces [2]. The areas surrounding the pavement are equally impressive. On both sides of the street, bioswales have been added to absorb as much as 80 percent of storm water before it has a chance to overwhelm the sewer system [3].
“Sustainability is not just about permeable pavement and bioswales and recycled content,” Attarian says (Project Specialist). “It’s also about complete streets, it’s about safety, it’s about mode share and mode hierarchy. It’s about great places and spaces. Real sustainability is when you bring the two together.” [2]

[1] Taylor, Donna. (2013) America’s “greenest street” provides a blueprint for sustainable urban development. Online
[2] Witcher, T.R. (2012) Chicago Rebuilds Streets Greener and Leaner. Civil Engineering, The magazine of the American Society of Civil Engineering. Online
[3] Woods, Randy (2013) Chicago’s “Greenest Street” Uses Smog-Eating Cement. Online


One thought on “Greenest Sustainable Street in America

  1. Any idea who the manufacturer of the “energy kiosk” is?

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