Post Carbon Chicago - How 50 Years Back, Postitioned 50 Years Forward in Windy City

Henry Huang
Director, Structures
WSP, Hong Kong

In Oct 2018, 90 scientists from 40 countries and members of the IPCC warned us that we will reach the point of no return in climate change if we don’t meet a reduction in global temperatures of 1.5 °C by 2040. Cities, many with tall buildings, account for 70% of the carbon emissions and act as the major players in this process. Many cities, for example, District of Columbia, have enforced environmental regulations and committed to source all their energy needs from renewable sources by 2032. The US National Renewable Energy Lab researched on a post-carbon world scenario where all energy demand is electric and supplied by renewable energy. This future world aims to organically integrate electric transportation with all-electric buildings.

Can buildings, like electric cars, become electrified? The Willis Tower was designed to be all-electric 50 years ago. In fact, about 60% of all buildings in downtown Chicago are all-electric thanks to the “Heat By Light” program sponsored ComEd, the local electric company in Chicago. This includes the Chicago top three buildings, Willis, John Hancock Center, and Trump Tower. How does this position Chicago to be a future post-carbon city? In this presentation, we will discuss how electrification of the urban habitat is an important step to develop a post-carbon world. Using Chicago as an example, we will study when the electric grid will be powered by renewable energy and how to incorporate nature to make Chicago carbon neutral.

50 years from now, maybe before that, we may live in a post-carbon world. Given where we today are with climate change, can we afford not to move in that direction?