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Chicago's Farr Associates Continues to Define Sustainable Urbanism

Harper Court in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago was designed by Farr Assoiates. The courtyard is flanked by multiple restaurants and has several tents with independent vendors.Harper Court in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago was designed by Farr Associates.

There is a growing movement for architecture firms to consider how building usage, both inside and out, can promote sustainability. Farr Associates, a Chicago-based architecture firm, is an excellent example of integrating sustainability into architectural planning. The firm is poised to release its second edition of their book, Sustainable Urbanism in 2017. The book defines sustainable urbanism as urbanism or the social character that emerges through the urbanization of the world, that is environmentally conscientious, or sustainable. The book will be a collection of case studies and best practices for sustainable urbanism.

The firm not only observes but also practices sustainable urbanism in its projects. Harper Court, a mixed-use open retail, office, and hotel space in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, is an example of the firm's sustainable urbanism doctrine in action. The space received a Platinum LEED certification for its interiors and Gold LEED certification for its office tower, hotel, and the project as a whole. In fact, it is the first project of its kind to pursue and earn four different LEED certifications. The property includes multiple sustainability-related features including a green roof on the office building, a rainwater capture program, and a smart electricity and lighting system that maximizes conservation.

Harper Court in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago was designed by Farr Assoiates. A live jazz concert is held at one end of the courtyard.A live jazz concert is held at one end of the courtyard as part of a summertime festival.

The project was developed to be easily accessed by multiple types of users. Hyde Park has a diverse population, including students, University of Chicago affiliates, and other residents. Because of the ease of accessibility by car and foot, as well as the wide variety of businesses and organizations occupying the space, Harper Court does not single out one demographic but is open to all. Before the construction of Harper Court, the property was occupied by vast parking lots – now, the project acts as an anchor of street life in a newly renewed part of the neighborhood now called Downtown Hyde Park. The space is home to a farmer's market and frequent outdoor concerts during the warmer months, providing residents a space in which to come together.

Sustainable urbanism can be summed up by the description for the LEED Neighborhood Development standards: the practice of striving for "better, more sustainable, well-connected neighborhoods." These standards look "beyond the scale of buildings to consider entire communities." By expanding the scope of sustainability from individual projects to entire community spaces, the efficacy of each project is improved. While Harper Court is just one development, Farr Associates has tackled an array of projects including other buildings, public spaces, and improving zoning ordinances, from Chicago to Indiana to Oklahoma.

What community areas in your city integrate sustainability and accessibility? What types of spaces would you like to see? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.

Credit: Images by Hannah Flynn. Data linked to sources.