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04.24.2014
Clean Green
New South Side manufacturing plant breaks ground in Chicago.
Green cleanser company Method lands its first U.S. plant in Pullman.
Courtesy McDonough + Partners

Manufacturing in the Midwest is generally written off as a thing of the past. And while no one is under the impression that Chicago will recapture its status as “hog butcher to the world,” manufacturing still plays an important role in the city’s economy.

Workers broke ground in March on a new plant in the Pullman neighborhood, which will bring 100 manufacturing jobs to the South Side. Method, a cleanser company relying on natural, nontoxic, biodegradable ingredients, will build its first U.S. manufacturing plant at East 111th Street and South Doty Avenue.

“There hasn’t been a manufacturing company on the South Side in the city of Chicago for almost 30 years,” said Alderman Anthony Beale. To lure the plant to Chicago, the city promised $9 million in Tax Increment Financing funds, as well as $1.1 million in state tax credits over the next 10 years. The project, which cost $33 million to build, is scheduled to open early next year.

Method's new South Side facility will generate half of the energy needed to run the factory on site.
 

The incentives may have helped—Method said they were considering 150 locations for the factory, including a close second in Michigan, before choosing the Pullman site. But it was not just short-term economics. Method leadership also professed a desire to set up an urban base of operations in anticipation of an increasingly urbanized world. Chicago’s transportation connections were also a factor.

When it is up and running, the eco-conscious cleaners company will have the city’s second freestanding wind turbine. Also equipped with solar panels, renewable energy will satisfy half the building’s energy needs. The city’s Back of the Yards neighborhood is already home to Testa Produce, the only LEED Platinum refrigerated food distribution facility in the U.S., which sports a turbine strong enough to power the entire building on windy days. Like Testa, Method will pursue a LEED Platinum ranking novel for its industry.

The roof will include greenhouses for use by the community.
 

The design is by William McDonough + Partners, based in San Francisco and Charlottesville, Virginia—a firm known for its cradle-to-cradle material selection employed in projects like American University’s School of International Service, NASA’s sustainability base, and The Ferrer Research tower in Barcelona. Chicago-based Summit Design Build and Heitman Architects also worked on the project.

Originally a lumberyard for the Pullman Company, the 22-acre site is itself a study in upcycling. Cleaning up the brownfield is the first order of business. “So often, in the first industrial revolution, factories were dirty,” said McDonough in a statement. “Method’s new manufacturing home is a clean home—using clean energy, water, and materials to create innovative household products. The manifestation of ‘industrial hygiene’ at this scale is beneficial to communities; it provides jobs and it is embodied by a facility that is a delightful neighbor—your kids can play safely here.”

Method is a certified B corporation, a new legal framework for companies to pursue social and environmental dividends beyond profit. The factory’s products are designed to meet the standards of the Cradle to Cradle Certified Program. Developed by McDonough, the Cradle to Cradle process seeks to reduce waste and promote efficiency in the supply chain.

That applies apparently even to roof space. In a move that could support efforts to increase local food production on the South Side, Method will reportedly rent out greenhouses on the building’s roof.

Chris Bentley