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When he's home, Erik Olsen is in Lakeview. When he's at work, he's at the city's Department of Construction and Permits, running the accelerated permit program for city buildings that meet some basic green standards. (As Olsen told me earlier this year, "Routine projects involving three or fewer units can typically be approved on a fast track within ten days, following a process that can be diagrammed on a Post-it.")
In his spare time he runs GreenBean, "a news and discussion forum dedicated to reporting on built, in-progress, and unbuilt green building projects in Chicago." Projects--eight so far in the 312 and 773--are posted with owners' consent independent of the City of Chicago.
There's plenty of technical talk on the site-- hey, the guy's an engineer!--but Olsen, true to the blog medium, isn't all promotional all the time. He has both praise for and misgivings about One South Dearborn, for instance:
"Like essentially all new office towers in Chicago, this is an all-electric building, including electric resistance heat, which is almost never environmentally preferable (see here or here--scroll almost to bottom--to understand why). Although one man's rantings can't change the market in Chicago, I will always complain about this. For commercial office towers it isn't quite as egregious because they primarily require cooling, but the electric heat trend seems to be growing in residential buildings as well."
On a happier note, he has this to say about the Washington Park SRO (5000 S. Indiana). Its architect, Piekarz Associates PC, "had little prior green experience, but because of the owner's directive, was and is willing to learn how to meet the project's green goals. There are many other local architects with little green experience diving in head-first, and they are to be applauded for the efforts."