The North Pavilions were designed as minimalist black cubes, and together are capable of producing 16,000 kilowatt-hours (54,594 MBtu) of electricity annually. The outermost layer of the exterior of each pavilion is a curtain wall made of recycled aluminum. These walls contain specially designed "mono-crystalline photovoltaic modules and insulated glass". Convection from radiant solar heat gain causes air to cycle within air cavities covered by the photovoltaic modules. A "highly heat-reflective thermoplastic membrane" is used to waterproof each roof, and helps mitigate the urban heat island effect.
The photovoltaic modules generate electricity to power much of the pavilions' lighting. The North Pavilions are the first Chicago buildings to use building integrated photovoltaic cells, which are a solar energy system incorporated into the building's structural elements. Millennium Park's planners claimed that the pavilions had the first electricity-generating curtain walls in the Midwest.
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