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Printer's Row Residents Complain Of Unbearable Cooling Fan Noise From Digital Company Getting Even Worse In Summer

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Printer's Row residents call it unbearable. They live next to a company that runs fans 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And they are loud.

Those fans are used to cool lots of computers that power what is known as the cloud. Now residents tell CBS 2's Tara Molina the noise is getting worse and worse into the summer. That's not surprising since the noise is coming from cooling fans, but residents say the business seems to have added or changed something because the noise just keeps getting worse. Despite constant effort, they say nothing is being done about it.

He expected some noise moving to the city, but Joshua Zhang calls the noise from the fans on the roof of the company next door, Digital Realty, relentless, horrible and unexpected.

"A big vacuum but with a high pitch to it," he said. "Walking back to your condo before that? You already prepare mentally, 'Hey, there's going to be a lot of noise.'"

He said when he bought his Printer's Row condo it was not noticeable, but as soon as temperatures started to rise, so did the noise level.

As a commercial pilot he is used to loud, but he does not want to deal with it when it's time to rest.

"I try to fly as much as I can to stay away from here," he said. "I can't really sleep well when I'm supposed to be resting because and have to operate a flight."

Zhang isn't the only one.

His neighbors have filed dozens of 311 noise pollution complaints with the city and even started an online petition and Facebook group where they communicate about the issue. But he said not enough is being done about it.

According to city spokespeople, the complaints have been filed with they Department of Health, and they did not have any other details.

Zhang is suggesting Digital Realty try to better understand what their neighbors are dealing with.

"They should get the CEO out here and try to sleep in my condo for a night," he said.

CBS 2 tried to reach Digital Realty a number of times Wednesday to address these issues and get their response to complaints, but they had responded to any of those requests by 6 p.m. UPDATE: The company did respond on Friday.


Digital Realty strives to partner with the local communities in which we operate. We have taken the noise issues to heart and have been engaged extensively with neighboring residents, City officials, and sound consultants to implement measures to help alleviate the concerns, while also respecting the City's landmark preservation requirements and parameters of our historic building.

For example, in consultation with the City, Digital Realty conducted extensive sound studies and recently installed a 15 foot tall sound wall around the air cooled chillers at our facility in downtown Chicago. While the costs of these initiatives have exceeded $1M, the sound wall was built to adhere to the requirements of the landmark department and has provided sound improvement for neighboring residents.
We look forward to continuing our partnership with our neighbors and the City as we consider new technologies and options to continue to try to alleviate the issue. And as the residents of the neighborhood change but the facility remains, Digital Realty will continue to work with new residents and City officials to be a good neighbor.

CBS 2 was still waiting on the city's health department for a response. The law department said there was an administrative hearing set on the issues Thursday at 1 p.m., but the respondent requested a continuance. A spokesperson said a new hearing date should be set by Thursday.

" initial hearing will be held at DOAH regarding a noise violation issued on March 18, 2021 to Digital Printers.  Chicago Department of Public Health inspectors issued the noise complaint.

For your information - an initial hearing is an administrative check-in where a date is set for a subsequent hearing when contesting arguments can be made or a date for a follow-up status hearing is set."

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