The Sustainability Section of HED's Sustainable Development Division promotes development practices that result in buildings that are healthier to occupy, less expensive to operate and more responsible to the environment than traditional buildings. Sustainable requirements involve various levels of LEED, Energy Star and Chicago Green Homes certification, as well as ASHRAE standards for energy efficiency. The policies are intended to improve upon the benefits of Chicago’s dense urban form by integrating into all developments–including public roadways and parks–a higher level of stewardship of local water, air and land resources.
The division promotes strategies that absorb stormwater on site, such as bio-swales, permeable pavement and rain gardens, as well as green roofs. Green roofs help to keep rainwater out of overburdened sewer systems, reduce urban temperatures, improve the air quality in densely developed neighborhoods, and reduce a building’s energy costs. Several incentives are available for green roof construction, including eligibility for the for the city’s Green Permitting Program and a density bonus for downtown buildings. The Sustainability Section also provides technical assistance for building owners seeking to add, incorporate or expand a green roof, and for projects required to meet the City of Chicago's sustainability standards, specifically city-assisted projects, new planned developments and amendments, and site plan approvals and amendments. The requirements are outlined in the city of Chicago's "Green Matrix."
In addition, Sustainable Development's staff are involved in a broad, multi-agency strategy to coordinate aspects of the local and regional food system to enhance public health and create food-related business opportunities. With the goal of making Chicago the hub for a regional food system, it is seeking to increase food production and composting in Chicago neighborhoods by targeting city-owned land that can be be used for long-term or temporary use for growing food.