Elara Undertakes Design for Tribune Tower Adaptive Reuse Project

A Renewed Chicago Landmark

Working alongside architect Solomon Cordwell Bunez (SCB), Elara Engineering recently completed the MEPFP design for an adaptive reuse project that converted the iconic 34-story Tribune Tower and surrounding buildings into 162 luxury condominium units with amenity and retail spaces, while respecting the building’s Chicago landmark status.

Originally constructed in 1925, Tribune Tower is one of Chicago’s most recognized historic landmarks. In 1935, the Radio Building was added to the site, followed by the Television Building in 1950. In 2018, the Chicago Tribune newspaper vacated the building and planning began to transform the site.

In addition to conversion of the Tribune Tower to condominiums, four additional floors were added to the northeast side above the TV Building, providing a modern, glass complement to the existing limestone facades and creating a new elevated courtyard. A full luxury amenity program encompasses several unique spaces, including a series of terraces at the tower’s crown that gives residents a one-of-a-kind experience beneath iconic, gothic buttresses.

Creative Solutions

As the project’s MEPFP engineer responsible for the design of new major MEPFP equipment and infrastructure throughout the existing tower and addition; the depth of experience, creativity, and problem-solving ability of Elara’s team, led by Multifamily Practice Leader, Matt Swanson, enabled the design to exceed the City of Chicago’s sustainability ordinance. Project highlights include:

  • Elara identified the opportunity and confirmed the ability to reuse the building’s existing emergency generator, ComEd vaults, diesel fire pumps, and existing chilled water plant that utilizes a river water condensing system.
  • Indoor air quality is maximized through the use of dedicated outdoor air systems that employ MERV-13 filtration, provide ventilation directly to each condominium unit to minimize the mixing of air, and use self-regulating exhaust systems.
  • Condominium units have smart thermostats with remote sensors and are served by four-pipe fan coil units installed in enclosures with ducted return and variable ventilation systems (including makeup air and toilet, kitchen, and dryer exhaust system).
  • New direct digital controls (DDC) were designed to serve all major mechanical systems.
  • Interior common area lighting is controlled by a state-of- the art, multi-zone dimming system with code required occupancy and daylight sensors. Exterior and facade lighting is controlled by a building lighting multi-zone dimming system.
  • Electric vehicle charging infrastructure was designed to support the entire parking garage.
  • The main domestic hot water plant consists of high-efficiency water heaters located in the mechanical penthouse of the north tower while the hot water return heat exchangers are located in the 2nd floor mechanical room. A dedicated sub-water heater plant is located at the base of the highest zone for zone isolation.

Additional information about the Tribune Tower Adaptive Reuse project can be found here.