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Trends and Outliers

TIBCO Spotfire's Business Intelligence Blog


What Chicago Architecture Teaches About Visualizations, Analytics

Chicago Skyline 150x150 What Chicago Architecture Teaches About Visualizations, Analytics Lots of architectural firms build things – a harder project is choosing what buildings to remove, recycle or adapt as a city’s population shifts, infrastructure needs change and tastes in design evolve.  Sounds like a job for analytics and deep business intelligence.

Chicago architectural firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill (AS+GG) is diving deeply into efforts to wring the greatest use out of existing structures and minimize waste,using data visualization tools and analytics.  The work is part of a massive plan to “decarbonize” Chicago’s Loop.As part of a citywide initiative, the firm examined the inventory of buildings and assessed the age, use, condition, and energy consumption of  500 structures in downtown Chicago.  The Windy City is among many cities coping withaffordable housing needs, aging downtown office or manufacturing facilities and shifting or declining populations. Mayor Richard Daley urged rooftop planting and other efforts to reduce climate-change impact.

The Chicago Climate Action Plan,  project calls for a retrofit of half the city’s commercial and residential buildings to result in a 30% reduction in energy use by 2020.  AS+GG took on this analysis using maps and data visualization that illustrated the spread of downtown offices and gaps where older buildings were being renovated for apartments, hotels, or removed entirely.

Like a time-lapse photo of the entire city skyline, this project created a 3-D model of more than 550 buildings embedding the age, size, energy consumption rate, carbon footprint impact and other details.  By understanding the impact and capacity of each building, architects and designers can choose to renovate, rather than demolish and replace buildings — and by having an entire ecosystem of data, people can more easily find new uses rather than building individual structures for a greater ovreall impact.  The result can be better living or working conditions throughout the Loop – not just a single iconic building created as a sign of “progress.”

That’s a unique concept in a city that practically invented the modern skyscraper and was, after all, the home of the largest office building when the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) was built in the 1980s. The Loop is home to more than a century of great buildings – in stone, steel, glass and concrete. Many of them have been re-used over the years, going from offices to apartments or hotel rooms, manufacturing and storage re-born as downtown lofts.

After all, it wasn’t the need for height that spawned the modern office tower.  One driving force was the dramatic crash in the price of steel — falling by more than half  from 1880-1895 — and that allowed steel beams to be used as a building material, not just for bridges or railroads. That led to the commercial passenger elevator and countless other inventions.

What could you re-purpose in your company to save money or increase lifespan? Instead of disposal of goods that costs you money, could your clients or neighbors make something productive from your castoffs?

David Wallace
Spotfire Blogging Team

Image Credit: Microsoft Office Clip Art

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