spring 11  | Men's Book Chicago

Mr. Positive

by Matt Lee

Our city is synonymous with architectural breakthroughs, and now we can thank Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture for keeping the flame alive. The Chicago firm recently unveiled their design for the world's first large-scale energy positive building. Scheduled for completion in 2013, the eight-story, 1.3 million-square-foot Masdar Headquarters - the centerpiece of zero-carbon, zero-waste Masdar City outside of Abu Dhabi - will generate 103 percent of the energy it needs, giving 3 percent back to the grid.

What makes this possible? "There's no silver bullet," says Gordon Gill, 47 design partner on the headquarters. "Sometimes these things occur when a combination of circumstances allows them to occur. When we start designing a building we begin by trying to reduce its need for energy. On Masdar, we got the building to 85 percent efficiency, which is very, very efficient. And we have 300,000 square-feet of solar panels on the roof, generating 17 percent of the energy, which pumps it up to about 103 percent."

Aside from the world's largest building -integrated solar panel, the headquarters feature 11 steel wind cones for natural light, heating and cooling. "We cut the lighting load by about 50 percent and reduced the water load by 40 percent," says Gill.

If you can't make it to Masdar, keep an eye out for Gill's design for the National Museum of Health and Medicine at 175 W. Washington St. "The client wants something extremely efficient and innovative," says Gill. "It's going to be a fantastic challenge."