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Sustainability Tour of Peoria 2010

Sustainability is being embraced in central Illinois.

LEED certified buildings.  Green roofs.  Permeable concrete.  Semi-permeable pavers.  Prairie restorations.  Streambank stabillization.  Vegetative bioswales.

The first installation of pervious conrete in central Illinois is in Robinson Park along the Illinois River Bluff Trail.

Examples of these sustainable projects are popping up all over the nation and central Illinois is no exception.  All over the country, businesses, municipalities, and government agencies have turned to sustainability as a solution to a wide variety of problems.  Businesses and facilities managers have found that employing energy efficiency measures in their buildings have not only been good for the environment but also good for their profitability.  Other businesses have found that installing more permanent sustainable measures in their developments can lock in their long term capital expenditures and protect them from rising oil and gas prices that can impact the cost of regular maintenance of their facilities.  Cities and municipalities have also found sustainable solutions are necessary in tackling issues such as ground water contamination and erosion control from storm water runoff.

In October 2010, the Natural Resources and Your Development Task Force hosted a sustainability bus tour around the Peoria area for local engineers, land use planners, public works officials, landscape architects, and students.  The tour covered sites that have achieved or are working toward LEED certification such as the Tazewell County Transfer Facillity, the Caterpillar Administration Building, and the Peoria Riverfront Museum project.  In the newly renovated Westlake Shopping Center, Les Cohen from Cohen Development Company explained the environmental and financial reasons behind installing semi-permeable pavers that will eventually cover the entire parking lot.  Sustainable solutions have also been applied to erosion problems at Springdale Cemetary, and storm water runoff problems in Robinson and Sommer Parks.

This following is a summary of some of the projects.

Not only will this parking lot endure for more than 60 years, but the different colored pavers will also save from being repainted every few years.

Westlake Shopping Center

This is the site of Peoria’s first semi-permeable paver parking lot that will be the largest commercial interlocking concrete paver parking lot in the Midwest.  Rainwater permeates through the pavers which greatly reduces the amount of storm water runoff and allows ground water levels to continually be restored.  A typical asphalt parking lot can be expensive to maintain as it must be periodically striped, seal coated, and frequently replaced.  In contrast, the Westlake parking lot will never need to be striped as the “lines” are made of white pavers and the lot should last 60 years or longer.  According to the Cohen Development Company, the pavers provide many sustainable development benefits including:

  • Easier on the earth:  60 years or longer expected life cycle, compared to 15 years for asphalt and 40 years for concrete.
  • Easier on customers:  high solar reflectivity creates a cooler parking lot in summer, a brighter, easier-to-see, parking lot at night, and traffic calming.
  • Easier on plants:  cooler pavement with moisture and air allows landscaping in parking lots to develop healthy root systems.
  • Easier on the hydrosphere:  permeability returns moisture to the hydrologic cycle.
  • Easier on the atmosphere:  reduced carbon footprint.
  • In the long run, easier on the pocketbook:  with a 30 year manufacturer’s replacement warranty and a life cycle expected to last four asphalt replacements, interlocking concrete pavers pay for their increased capital cost by year 15.

Tazewell County Transfer Facility

Waste Management’s garbage collection trucks come to this transfer station to drop their load of garbage on a concrete floor where the company has begun to source separate recycling such as cardboard materials from the waste pile to be sent for recycling.  Any leftover garbage is then placed in trailers that are then taken to landfills.  By consolidating waste from smaller trucks to larger trailers for the trip to the landfill, there is a substantial reduction in fuel and emissions.

The station has achieved LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council (  Here are some of the elements the site used to earn the certification:

  • To build the facility, they did not use virgin land as it is the site of a closed landfill.
  • Rainwater is collected on site and is used for nonpotable purposes such as flushing toilets and washing the tipping floor of the station.
  • An Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) is used to reduce heating costs and improve indoor air quality by recovering the heat normally exhausted from the building to pre-heat the fresh air intake.
  • The scale house building near the entrance is a repurposed building that was moved from a previous position of the landfill.
  • Throughout the building, ductwork has been sealed to prevent air and heat from escaping.

The future site of the Peoria Riverfront Museum. The development is working toward LEED certification.

Peoria Riverfront Museum

While construction is just at the beginning stages, sustainability efforts have already begun as 90% of the materials on the site have been recycled.  Once construction is complete in 2012, the museum expects to achieve a LEED Gold certification (  By doing so, the building with have been certified as environmental sound design and operation in the following categories:  Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation in Operations.  By following the LEED standards, the museum expects to recoup the upfront costs of the design within 8 years through reduced costs of energy and water usage of the facility.

The position of the building will embrace the view of the Illinois River and also provide an ideal location for photovoltaic panels.  While the museum is working on a grant to fund the panels, the wiring to support the solar-powered energy source will be completed during construction.

To prepare for potential flooding of the Illinois River in the future, Water Street has been raised up and out of the 100 year flood plain.  The parking lot for the museum will be 1′ above the plain while the position of the museum on the north side of the lot will be 15′ above the plain.

Every effort is being made to source all materials locally in order to support the local economy and reduce the ecological impact of transporting materials from around the world.  The carpeting to be used in the museum will have a recycled content between 60 and 100% while the wood flooring will originate from sustainable forests.

The Nature Conservancy has been working on a plan for the landscape architecture that will include bioswales, native trees, and native grasses.

Caterpillar Administration Building

The world headquarters of Peoria-based Caterpillar has already achieve a LEED-eb certification at the level of Gold.  It was a process that took 2 years to complete, and the building has already seen an annual energy reduction of 43% compared to usage in 2007.  The company is saving $800,000 a year in reduced energy costs and has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 5700 tons.  The overall cost of the project was $3,000,000 with the majority being purposed for HVAC upgrades.

A building automation system was installed to control lighting through motion sensors and timers to automatically turn off lights at night.

They replaced their irrigation system with water efficient landscaping that now has a weather sensor that measures the temperature and humidity to address the needs of the soil.

By replacing their outdated kitchen equipment, they were able to reduce CFCs – chlorofluorcarbons that deplete the ozone.

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