A Green Factory to Crop Up On Chicago’s South Side

By Nicole Anderson
April 18, 2014 in GreenSource

Method_Southwest view ©William McDonough + Partners

While most 19th century manufacturing hubs were known for their poor working conditions, the Pullman District on Chicago’s South Side was the country’s first model industrial town designed to provide a safer and healthier environment for the Pullman sleeping company’s workers. Over a century later, Method, the green cleaning products brand, is now carrying on the District’s progressive legacy with the construction of its new 150,000-square-foot sustainable factory. The company asked William McDonough + Partners to design its sprawling building, spanning roughly five acres on a brownfield site where the original Pullman lumberyard once stood. Prior to construction of its new facility, Method has committed to cleaning up the 22-acre property, and then transforming it into lush parkland for its employees and the surrounding community.

“Chicago was interesting because of its location, transportation, and also its history as part of the Rust Belt. They [Method] wanted to be directly involved with manufacturing for the next generation and job creation,” says William McDonough, who also co-founded the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

The building, designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification, will use (not surprisingly) Cradle to Cradle Certified materials and feature rooftop greenhouses to help reduce wind loads as well as provide food production for the local community. Different sources of renewable energy will power the factory, including solar thermal panels, a refurbished wind turbine, and solar photovoltaic tree-shaped structures, which will also shade cars parked underneath its canopies.

Essentially divided into offices and manufacturing production space, the box-shaped factory is intended to be “very simple” and based on “good shading, color, and sunlight” explains McDonough. With a transparent south wall, a large terrace, and mezzanine, the design allows for visitors and employees to observe the operations from different parts of the building.

The factory will open up to abundant greenspace, populated with native vegetation and trees, and provide pedestrian pathways to nearby mass transit. Bioswales along the perimeter of the building will carry water to a retention pond sitting outside the capped Brownfield site and serve as a water purification system for stormwater management.

“Method could have chosen to make an architectural statement but instead the decision is to focus on food production on the roof, solar protectors, wind turbines, and a solar greenhouse,” says McDonough. “Those are economic and design decisions that render visible the set of principles here.”

Construction is already underway and the building is expected to be complete by early of 2015.