Monthly Archives: August 2015

How Much Diesel Is in the Air You’re Breathing?

Portrait of tired fitness young woman outdoors in the city catching breathe

New construction, cranes, and “Pardon Our Dust” signs are often a strong indicator of a neighborhood’s health, but too often those construction projects come with increased noise and diesel exhaust. But at a construction site at 3030 N. Broadway in Lakeview, that’s about to change.

Sadly, no one has yet discovered a way to keep the noise down during new building projects, but one construction company just started what they say is Chicago’s first “clean diesel construction project.” Leopardo Companies say they are working with the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Respiratory Health Association to drastically reduce diesel particulates emitted by equipment at the Lakeview site.

The 265,000 square-foot retail space will be built with construction equipment that meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s toughest emission standards. To meet that goal, Leopardo will use low-idling and clean diesel equipment; nonroad diesel engines that comply with the EPA’s Tier 4 emission standards; and vehicle and equipment idling will be kept to a maximum of three minutes. Not only that, but the company hauled a 300-ton crane to the location and retrofitted it with a new emissions scrubber.

Because diesel particulates in exhaust pollution can lodge deep inside lungs, the project’s leaders hope the effort will inspire other construction companies to take similar measures. Plus, they hope it will provide a healthier environment for everyone who works and lives in the area.

It’s a worthy goal, but unfortunately the air quality inside buildings can often be just as dangerous, with pollutants, allergens, dust, moisture, and even worse things filling cramped spaces. For instance, some hospitals have to use special laminar fans that circulate the air 300 times per hour. And at Chicago’s busiest metro station, more than 130,000 commuters a day risk breathing in the harmful diesel soot that fills the air inside Union Station and passenger cars.

This summer, the EPA started testing the air quality in Union Station in preparation for possible legal action.

Chicago’s Historic Motor Club Building Gets an HVAC Makeover

motor club building

Built in 1928 and opened only a year later, the Chicago Motor Club is an architectural Chicago landmark. Recently, the Art Deco skyscraper received an infrastructural makeover.

With the help of LG Electronics, the Chicago Motor Club added an entire commercial HVAC system, helping it to transform into a 21st century, LEED-certified hotel.

Built nearly 100 years ago, the Chicago landmark had some understandably outdated heating and cooling systems.

When it comes to air conditioning systems, experts recommend inspection every 10 years. When properly maintained, an HVAC system can last up to 15 years.

Anything longer than that, however, warrants a serious update.

After over 50 years of occupancy, the Chicago Motor Club moved its headquarters to Des Plaines, Illinois in 1986. The historic building saw its fair share of owners and mismanagement, until it lost occupation altogether in 2004.

Around that time, Hilton began considering renovating the building into a hotel. One of the biggest challenges, however, was to update the building’s heating and cooling system without threatening the original architectural value and infrastructure.

As part of the renovation criteria, the builders made it an imperative to maintain the original appearance of the Chicago Motor Club. For the job, they hired State Mechanical Services as the installation contractor. This company was hand selected due to the delicacy of the matter.

The new owner of the Chicago Motor Club wanted to make sure the heating and cooling systems were accommodating to both the heat of the summer and Chicago’s notoriously harsh winters. Additionally, he wanted to make sure it would be running 24/7 and at a low sound level for the guests’ ultimate comfort and convenience.

To help meet the building’s needs, State Mechanical Services sought out LG Electronic, as the variant refrigerant flow technology ensured that the infrastructure of the building wasn’t compromised.

As of May 2015, the building has been renamed the Hampton Inn Chicago Downtown, and is a modern hotel with modern comforts and amenities, which still boasts its the original grandeur.

Illinois Joins the Powdered Alcohol Witch Hunt


On May 11, 2015, the federal agency slapped their stamp of approval on “Palcohol,” a powdered alcohol product.

Since then, America has been freaking out.

Although the product has not even been made available for commercial purchase, some states are taking swift and firm action against the powdered alcohol substance. Since the federal government’s approval, Michigan and New Jersey have been quick to place bans on “Palcohol,” ruling it too dangerous for commercial sale.

In a survey conducted by the University of Michigan, research showed that 80% of adults in the United States want to ban powdered alcohol from being sold commercially.

So why all the hate?

According to Wired a great deal of the public’s concern is for America’s underage population. The powdered substance has the potential to be mixed with a plethora of flavors, making it appealing to young children.

Spiked Kool-Aid aside, many U.S. adults feel that “Palcohol” has the potential to be snorted, which could be dangerous.

The latest state to jump on the bandwagon is Illinois.

So far, the state has been very vocal with their decision. Along with the previously mentioned fears, Illinois state leaders fear that powdered alcohol could be used to supplement alcoholic drinks, making them all the more potent. This could mean danger for young teens, especially those who drink and get behind the wheel.

For a driver to be considered alcohol impaired, they have to have a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08. Illinois feels that powdered alcohol will increase the incidence of these drivers on the road.

So what’s the truth about powdered alcohol? Is it really all that dangerous?

According to an experiment conducted by Wired, powdered alcohol isn’t as easy to swallow as your run of the mill alcoholic beverage. Additionally, a person would have to snort nearly 30 half gram lines of powdered alcohol to consume the equivalent of even half a shot of vodka.

But since “Palcohol” isn’t commercially available yet, subject and author Brent Rose had to speculate, making a powdered concoction of his own using vodka and maltodextrin (“Palcohol” uses cyclodextrin).

The truth is, we may never know its positive or harmful effects until it hits shelves in the coming months.

Meet O’Hare Airport’s Four-Legged Landscaping Team


O’Hare International Airport is getting some much-needed landscaping from some surprising workers: a herd of goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas and burros that tend to six acres on the other side of the fence from where the planes land.

The Sustainable Vegetation Management Initiative, now in its third year, has been quite a success.

The landscaping program is an efficient way of removing hard-to-access vegetation, which in turn eliminates the habitat for wildlife that could interfere with airport operations (including birds, which can be prove dangerous to planes, especially when concentrated in large numbers). It provides an alternative to simply spraying with toxic herbicides, and reduces soil erosion by eliminating the need for heavy equipment in the area. Plus, it reduces both the cost and pollution associated with gas-powered mowers, trimmers and other lawn equipment.

By having a mixed herd of over 40 grazers, including several types of animals with different tastes, almost all the different types of invasive plants are eaten. Even poison ivy can be cleared with no ill effects on the grazers.

The animals take plenty of breaks, human workers have confirmed. The four-legged workers seem content, and there haven’t been any demands for wage hikes.

“They don’t charge any overtime,” Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans, visiting the herd on Aug. 4, told ABC News. “No, they just nibble away.”

Are these hooved landscapers poised to take over the jobs of the 888,426 people working for the nation’s approximately 401,473 landscaping businesses? It’s unlikely. But more and more management teams of both private spaces and municipal areas are seeing the benefit of involving four-legged friends in clearing efforts. The Boston Globe reported earlier this summer that Boston, too, would be expanding its use of goat-driven landscaping — noting that last year, the goats “didn’t do such a baaa-d job” of clearing overgrown city land.