Method Manufacturing Facility: The South Side Soapbox Chicago, Illinois


Method’s new manufacturing home, designed by William McDonough + Partners, is a clean home—using clean energy, water and materials to create innovative household products. The new state-of-the-art facility showcases the company’s dedication to sustainability with the first LEED® Platinum manufacturing facility in its industry. The former brownfield site has been rehabilitated by Method to express its mission at every scale. The facility will bring 100 manufacturing jobs to community in need of employment opportunities.

Method and the William McDonough + Partners design team drew on Pullman’s tradition of progressive thinking in establishing the project goals:

  • Create a model for the clean industrial revolution
  • Help restore, heal and support the local community and economy
  • Grow value for the community
  • Celebrate ingenuity, innovation, and prosperity
  • Strive for the living embodiment of the Method brand
  • Create a place for an enterprise that promotes commingling among all workers
  • Create a place that is open to the public for viewing Method products and processes
  • Endeavor to use 100% renewable onsite energy
  • Endeavor to capture 100% of harvested rainwater on site
  • Provide an abundance of daylight and fresh air for everyone in the factory and offices
  • Follow Cradle to Cradle® protocols
  • Achieve a LEED Platinum rating

Approximately 30% of the factory’s energy is supplied by a refurbished 230 foot, 600 kW on-site wind turbine (by Rockwind). This is be supplemented by three solar trees over the parking area that rotate to track the sun and provide up to 45.9 kW of energy each. Chicago has roughly 2500 sun hours per year, which could generate around 115 MWh annually. Solar thermal collectors provide hot water to office sinks and showers. The entry canopy is covered with a green roof, visible from the terrace level of the facility.

The facility will help pave the way for the future of urban agriculture. A 75,000-square-foot (1.72 acres) rooftop, climate-controlled hydroponic greenhouse built and managed by Gotham Greens will produce more than one million pounds of fresh, pesticide-free produce annually, which will be sold to local restaurants be available to the surrounding community though produce markets. This will be the largest rooftop greenhouse in the world. The rooftop crop will include several types of greens, such as arugula, bok choy, lettuces, and kale. Gotham Greens’ production methods require 20 times less land and 10 times less water than conventional agriculture and avoids fertilizer and pesticide runoff, a leading cause of global water pollution. The greenhouse will result in reduced CO2 emissions and transportation costs due to local distribution as well.

Stormwater from paved surfaces is captured in bioswales where it can filter back into the ground. The south wall of the factory is highly transparent and serves as a metaphor of Method’s corporate transparency while also giving workers a strong visual connection to the outdoors and providing an abundance of daylight. Neighbors can use the factory’s “front yard” as a park. Method intends to provide public tours of the facility, which is close to a transit line.

In a reference to the site’s former use as a lumberyard, wood is incorporated in places like the entry canopy, the cafe facade, and a roof terrace. Materials were selected using Cradle to Cradle® protocols; where available Cradle to Cradle Certified™ products were used. 20% of construction materials came from within 500 miles of the factory. Colored fabrics, graphics, and embossed messages are used to evidence the Method brand both inside and outside the factory.

After a careful site selection process, Method chose the historic community of Pullman in South Side Chicago as the home of their new factory. Pullman is a place with a rich history of progressive planning; it was famously founded on principles that sought to elevate the quality of life for working families in the late 19th century. It grew into a place of diverse cultures and industries with unparalleled offerings in worker housing and a strong sense of community. Pullman represented a new alliance between capital, production and labor and is globally recognized as one of America’s first and most important model company towns. While much of the basis for Pullman’s economy has gone the way of the private railway car during the last century, Pullman continues to encourage new models for industrial production combined with economic and social benefits. In 2015, President Obama announced the designation of the Pullman neighborhood as a new National Monument.

The new Method Pullman factory and administrative offices will be part of the Pullman Park mixed use development, a project intending to bring industry, housing, and retail to the area. The site offers great opportunities to support a growing community and will encourage its employees to live nearby so they can walk to work, share transportation and use public transit. They will also benefit from nearby shopping where a network of walkways from the factory will encourage pedestrian connectivity.



William McDonough, FAIA, Int. FRIBA (design architect):

“Chicago. Factory. Put those two words together. What do they conjure up? Smokestacks? Chicago has been called “Nature’s Metropolis” because it was the giant hub to which so many of the country’s natural resources flowed in and manmade resources flowed out during the 19th and 20th centuries. So often, in the first industrial revolution, factories were dirty. We have images of factories as gritty buildings with smokestacks—facilities that no families would want in or near their neighborhoods.

Method’s new factory is a living dedication to clean in as many ways as possible; think about a tree—it produces oxygen, absorbs carbon, purifies water, produces food and transforms solar energy. This factory is a clean factory. The energy will be clean. The water will be clean. The production will be clean. The building will be full of daylight and fresh air. The products made here are as clean as anyone can make them and help people have beautifully clean places to live.

Method and William McDonough + Partners, with the rest of the design, construction, and operations team, are modeling a new, clean industrial model. Instead of taking things from nature and returning pollution, this production facility for Method honors a positive relationship between people and the natural world—we all benefit from nature while we support nature in return. This century is bringing us ecologically beneficial design to add to the dramatic equity and economic advances of previous centuries and will reinvigorate our landscapes and our cities. Chicago always relied on and worked with the bounty of the natural world and now it works both ways. Chicago. Factory. Think clean.”

Adam Lowry, Method (owner/client):

“With Method’s factory, we wanted to become native to an urban community and create an example of what manufacturing can look like in the 21st century. I sought out William McDonough and his team to help realize this vision because, having worked with Bill for years on the product side, I knew that he has a great skill for helping translate our vision into a design brief and execution. People often start with the metrics of what they want to achieve, but Bill encouraged us to lead with our values. Method is built from a belief that business should play a leading role in creating good society. Bill helped us translate that set of values into principles that we would manifest in the building. Design, as Bill would say, is the first signal of human intention. This building is a signal of Method’s intention to be part of a positive future.”

Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, as quoted in the media: 

“The City of Chicago continues to attract companies looking to access our highly skilled workforce, transportation system and diverse business climate,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Method choosing to build their state-of the-art manufacturing facility in Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood is a major economic investment for the south side of the City. Method has made a significant commitment to corporate responsibility and sustainability and I am proud they will open their doors in Chicago.”

President Barack Obama, in his statement about the Pullman National Monument:

“[A]s Americans, we believe that workers’ rights are civil rights. That dignity and opportunity aren’t just gifts to be handed down by a generous government or by a generous employer; they are rights given by God, as undeniable and worth protecting as the Grand Canyon or the Great Smoky Mountains. … That’s the story of this place — that, together, we can do great things that we cannot accomplish alone.  That’s why today I’m designating Chicago’s Pullman District as America’s newest national monument. I want this younger generation, I want future generations to come learn about their past. … I want future generations to know that while the Pullman porters helped push forward our rights to vote, and to work, and to live as equals, their legacy goes beyond even that.  These men and women without rank, without wealth or title, became the bedrock of a new middle class.  These men and women gave their children and grandchildren opportunities they never had.”


Cradle to Cradle® is a Registered Trademark of MBDC.


factory, offices, rooftop greenhouses


150,000 square feet


Completed 2015


William McDonough + Partners, design architect

Summit Design + Build, LLC, contractor

Heitman Architects Incorporated, architect of record

KJWW, structural and MEP engineers

Spaceco, Inc., civil engineers

Norris Design, landscape architects

Buro Happold, renewable energy consultant

MBDC, healthy material assessments

Gotham Greens, rooftop greenhouses

Nexus, greenhouse manufacturer/installer

Envision, solar


LEED® Platinum Certification

Steel Joist Institute’s 2017 Design Award, Industrial Category