Light will continue to shine into Chicago’s James R. Thompson Center.

The former state government building is most recognized for its signature 17-story glass atrium. Now owned by Google, the building will undergo massive renovations to usher it into the 21st century. The renovations will include a new triple-lite glass exterior that Google officials say will enhance the facility’s energy efficiency.

Now owned by Google, Chicago’s James R. Thompson Center will undergo massive renovations, including a new triple-lite glass exterior. Photo courtesy of Google.

Google executive Karen Sauder offered a peek into how the company intends to redevelop the Thompson Center along with Prime Group Inc. and Capri Investment Group. Google purchased the lot from the state in 2022 for $105 million. Construction is set to begin in 2024. The general contractor of the project is Clark Construction. Jahn is tasked with the design.

Sauders says the team will work with the building’s original architects at Jahn to help modernize it while maintaining its form. It was built in 1985. This includes the addition of the triple-lite glass exterior.

“For a building like the Thompson Center, this isn’t easy,” says Sauder. “To achieve the efficiency gains we’re targeting, the building’s facade and internal systems must be completely replaced. The new triple-lite glass exterior will improve both the thermal performance of the building and the comfort of those inside by requiring less energy to heat and cool. Additionally, it will modernize how the building looks and maximize natural daylight and views.”

Reports show that by 2019, the Thompson Center had accrued around $326 million in deferred maintenance, costing $17 million annually to operate. Officials say this was because its uninsulated curtainwall made heating and cooling in the 1.2 million-square-foot building inefficient and expensive.

Sauders explains that Google intends for the Thompson Center to be a LEED Platinum, all-electric building. The renovations will also include new heating and cooling equipment, covered terraces with more greenspace and biophilic design elements, among other features.

Google expects the project to be completed in 2026.

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