2013 Competition Brief

Competition Summary

From the City Hall’s Green Roof and the Green Building Permit Program to the Chicago Climate Action Plan, the City of Chicago can claim many accomplishments in the field of sustainability. However, the City has yet to achieve perhaps the biggest accomplishment in sustainable development: a Living Building in Chicago.

The Living Building Challenge Collaborative Chicago intends to lay the groundwork for such a project to be built in Chicago by announcing the Near West Side Design Competition.  The goal of the design competition is to inspire, inform and encourage the development of a Living Building in the Chicago region by envisioning a Living Building in the near West Side directly adjacent to four major institutions: the United Center, Malcolm X College, Cook County Hospital & Rush Hospital.

The format of the competition will be unique in that the Living Building Challenge Collaborative: Chicago will be hosting Collaborative meetings every 4 weeks during the design competition.  These meetings will serve as an opportunity for the competition project teams to present their ideas to the Collaborative members and gain valuable feedback.  As a way to facilitate discussion and collaboration, each team will be required to have at least one team member present for all of these meetings.

LBCC Chicago has partnered with Biomimicry Chicago to perform an AskPlace research project which analyzes the original, pre-development site conditions and recommends locally-attuned, restorative design strategies for the project site.  The results will be presented at the 2/27/2013 collaborative meeting.  See the Ecology section below for more details.

Spread the word!  Forward this flyer to anyone who might be interested in competing!

About the Site


The Near West Side site is representative of an ‘in between’ site in the City of Chicago:  In between already established local destinations, i.e. The United Center, Malcolm X City College, Rush University Medical Center, and to a larger scale, in between downtown Chicago and the outer city.

This type of leftover space is common in Chicago, a city defined by its neighborhoods, and successful development of this site that is guided by Living Building principles could be used as a template for other Chicago neighborhoods in the future.

The specific site for the LBCC Chicago design competition within this larger context is defined by a trapezoidal plot of land surrounded by Jackson Boulevard, Ogden Avenue, Adams Street & Wood Street. (Google Map of Near West Side Competition Site)

Urban Context

The main feature of the larger neighborhood is marked by the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290), which bisects the neighborhood in two.  A preliminary urban plan for the surrounding region is currently being developed for the competition to show how the Near West Side site could fit into future urban fabric.  Teams may modify surrounding planned developments to support the program as they see fit (see Scale Jumping for more information).

Linking the Neighborhood

With major destinations for healthcare, education, transit and entertainment already in place and looking to expand, the area offers great, long term resources to build around. New growth should link these economic centers in a way that builds an urban identity and draws in new population and business.

Future Development Plans

A map of the below future development plans is available here.

  • United Center Retail Development – Planned $75 million retail development consisting of 260,000 square feet of restaurants, bars, a team store, and event space.
  • Malcolm X College – Planned $251 million dollar campus consisting of two buildings at a total of 500,000 square feet. The new campus will focus on healthcare. The Chicago High School for the Arts will move into the old Malcolm X building in 2015.
  • Cook County Hospital Site – Debate continues on whether or not to restore what remains of the historic Cook County Hospital, but there remains great opportunity and available real estate for future development.
  • CTA Circle Line – The Chicago Transit Authority has preliminary development plans for a “Circle” line, with a stop planned for the United Center.  Project teams may choose to include this stop on the project site, but it is not required.

People & Culture

Careful consideration should be given to integrate program, function, scale and design aesthetic into the existing urban fabric.

Community Organizations & Information


Designated Chicago Landmarks in the Near West Side


A climate and place analysis developed by HOK Chicago is now available here.

LBCC Chicago has partnered with Biomimicry Chicago to perform an AskPlace research project which analyzes the original, pre-development site conditions and recommends locally-attuned, restorative design strategies for the project site.

This AskPlace project has three components: (re)connection with our native landscapes, (re)learning what makes them special, in order to (re)think how we design restoratively.  Biomimicry Chicago will begin by looking to our regional ecosystems and performing a “Genius of Place,” or a comprehensive assessment of the abundances and constraints life has adapted to locally and translating this information to the language of design.

We are seeking volunteers to help with the AskPlace effort.  If you are interested in helping, please indicate as such on the Registration Page.

The Biomimicry Chicago AskPlace team will present its findings at the 2/27/2012 Collaborative meeting, and they will also be available as a resource throughout the design process.


Availability of a soils and/or geotechnical report is not anticipated and project teams are advised to adhere to best practices for structural and civil design strategies common in the region.

Building Codes

Current Chicago Building Codes should be adhered to for all aspects of the design. Known challenges exist with the construction of a Living Building in Chicago, especially with respect to the Net Zero Water requirements. Teams that intend to seek variances for deviating from the code must provide a narrative with their submission describing what elements of the Chicago Building Code must be altered.

Scale Jumping Potential

With the direct adjacency to the United Center, Malcolm X College and vacant land, teams are encouraged to utilize scale jumping if they so choose, especially to satisfy Water and Energy requirements.  Scale jumping solutions should be sized for the project, and teams should also consider how future projects might also take advantage of scale jumping.

Program Requirements

The specific program requirements are undefined and are to be determined by the project teams.  We encourage all teams to consider how the site can made purposeful to both the immediate neighborhood residents and to the transient who arrives to the Near West Side neighborhood as a visitor.

Teams are encouraged to examine the potential needs of the existing institutions and neighborhood when developing their program.  The surrounding uses are a mix of commercial, healthcare, entertainment, educational and residential functions.

While the program does not require an educational component specifically, project teams should consider how your building will help educate the community and visitors about the environmental philosophies that are promoted by the Living Building Challenge.

Construction Budget

Currently, there is not set construction budget for the project.  However, economic viability will be a determining factor in the judging process.  Project teams should make every effort to make sustainable design elements of the proposed design as cost effective as possible.

Entry Requirements


  • LBC Strategy Narrative (1000 words) describing Region-specific challenges & solutions
  • Cost Mitigation Strategy (1000 words)
  • Materials list (specification and/or drawings)
  • Red List Materials Compliance Narrative (1000 words)
  • Systems diagrams for Energy & Water and calculations
  • Site Plan
  • Floor Plan(s): Typical & Unique Floors
  • Roof Plan
  • Foundation Plan
  • Exterior Elevations and/or Exterior Renderings (4)
  • Building Sections (2)
  • Wall Sections (1) showing full wall assembly
  • Interior Rendering

Entry Fee

  • $100 for professional firm teams
  • $50 for individual teams outside of firms
  • $25 for students


Teams must be limited to five people. The Competition will include several Collaborative Charrette Meetings (see Timeline section below) where competition team members may present their in-progress designs and get direct feedback from the Chicago Collaborative.

At least one team member must attend each Collaborative Charrette Meeting in person according to the Timeline.  Therefore, teams should be based in the Chicago area.

Those not wanting to submit a design but still wanting to participate are encouraged to participate in the Collaborative Charrette Meetings scheduled.


  • Registration Opens: 9/26/2012
  • Registration Closes: 1/30/2013
  • Biomimicry Chicago AskPlace Presentation: 2/27/2013
  • Charrette #1: 3/27/2013
  • Charrette #2: 4/24/2013
  • Final Review: 5/22/2013


We’re excited to announce that the prize for the winning entry will be (2) FREE passes to Living Future unConference in 2014 ($2,000 value)!

Judging Process

Design submissions will be focused on meeting all 20 Imperatives of the LBC standard and program requirements.

A panel of judges independent of the LBC Chicago Collaborative will be assembled to maintain anonymity and impartiality in the judging process.


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