Low carbon concrete comes to Chicago

A 41-story resi tower is city’s first to use stronger, more durable alternative

McHugh Concrete Construction's Eamonn Connolly S.E., P.E. (LinkedIn, The Reed Southbank)
McHugh Concrete Construction's Eamonn Connolly S.E., P.E. (LinkedIn, The Reed Southbank)

A 41-story luxury residential tower dubbed The Reed could become Chicago’s first building constructed with environmentally friendly concrete.

Lendlease Corp., the developer behind the 440-unit building in downtown’s Southbank, requested low carbon concrete for the project, Eamonn Connolly, director of engineering for McHugh Concrete Construction told the Chicago Business Journal.

“Our concrete mix designers replaced up to 60 percent of the traditional Portland Limestone cement with slag, a glassy waste product formed in blast furnaces during the steel production process,” he said. “Mixing slag in concrete is both a science and an art that we are very proud of.”

Low carbon concrete is stronger and can last up to 30 years longer than regular concrete. It can also increase construction costs by 1 percent or 2 percent, which is why it’s used so infrequently, according to Maxim Levin, concrete project executive for McHugh.

“But as more buildings use this type of concrete, I expect construction costs to go down,” Levin told the Business Journal. “Moving forward, we plan to recommend this concrete to clients.”

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The Reed, at 234 W. Polk St., is the second residential tower and first for-sale offering on Lendlease’s 7-acre development along the Chicago River.

Lendlease said it will use low carbon concrete regularly for new buildings and plans to reach absolute net zero carbon use by 2040.

“Today’s residents have signaled a desire for healthier, more efficient living options,” Ted Weldon, executive general manager of development for the Chicago office of Lendlease told the Business Journal. “Mitigating the effects of climate change and hitting these targets won’t be possible without employing cutting-edge techniques.”

Chicago’s luxury residential market shows no signs of slowing down. At least seven homes sold for $4 million or more last month. In 2021, 101 homes sold for at least that price, almost double the amount in 2019.

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[Chicago Business Journal] — Harrison Connery