The ‘highest green roof in the world’?

Chicago’s WBEZ, the Windy City’s National Public Radio affiliate, reported Thursday that the world’s third-tallest building, the Sears Tower (newly christened “The Big Willie,” by disgruntled Chicagoans), could be getting the world’s highest green roof.

“Chicago’s Sears Tower is getting a new name – later today the skyscraper will be re-christened the Willis Tower,” reported WBEZ producer Adriene Hill, referring to the skyscraper’s new owner, Willis Group Holdings, a London-based financial services firm.

“But another, perhaps more significant, change is also on the way for the building. Its owners want to give it a $350-million green makeover. Chicago’s Sears, soon to be Willis, Tower marks one of the great feats of modern architecture … Now, its owners also want to make it a symbol of environmental sustainability.”

The roof is on the 90th floor, 20 stories below the narrow peak. But one of the owners told the radio station that he also intends to replace all 16,000 of the icon’s windows to “triple-glazed” insulated panes.

Among other green changes planned by the new owners:

• Replacing all exterior metal paneling
• Upgrading some mechanical systems, including 10 boilers
• The testing of wind turbines and solar panels, with the goal of reducing electricity use by 80 percent

Scott Horst, of the U.S. Green Building Council, is quoted as saying the upgrades could generate 3,600 jobs for the Sears Tower alone. “What’s exciting to see in buildings like this is that we’re seeing exactly what we mean when we talk about a green economy,” Horst told Hill.

– Posted by Thomas J. Walsh. Contact him at


“A Chicago Icon Gets a New Name and a Green Makeover” (Chicago Public Radio):

“Sears Tower Gets New Name” (NPR):

“Sears Tower’s Name Change Isn’t ‘Gunna Fly’ With Some” (NPR blog):

“People Against the Sears Tower Name Change” (Facebook group):


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