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Method Building C2C-Designed LEED-Platinum Factory in Chicago

Image credit: Method/William McDonough + Partners

San Francisco-based cleaning products company Method has announced that it will build in Chicago one of the few LEED-Platinum factories in the US, where it will produce its eco-friendly cleaning products such as soaps and laundry detergent.

Designed by William McDonough + Partners, the state-of-the-art facility will be built in Chicago's historic Pullman district, where Pullman railroad cars were once built. Before beginning construction next year, Method says it will first clean up its 22-acre site, which used to be a Ryerson steel mill was and is now a brownfield.

Method says the factory, which will include manufacturing and bottling operations and serve as a distribution center for both Method and its Belgian parent company, Ecover, will eventually be run entirely on renewable power. Solar photovoltaic tree-like structures will generate energy and provide shade for cars parked underneath while solar thermal panels will provide hot water for factory processes.

The project will utilize materials that are safe for human and ecological health using the Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM protocol, which Method says will enable the building to help restore, heal and support the surrounding habitat while also stimulating the neighborhood's economy by bringing in an estimated 100 manufacturing jobs. The building's integration with the surrounding environment will extend well into the community, with its emphasis on pedestrian connectivity and proximity to mass transit options. The building also features a transparent south wall to provide an abundance of daylight and visual exposure to the outdoors, and a rooftop greenhouse that will provide food to the local community.

"So often, in the first industrial revolution, factories were dirty," said architect and sustainability leader William McDonough. "We have these images of factories as gritty buildings with smokestacks — facilities that no families would want in or near their neighborhoods. This factory is a clean factory. The energy will be clean. The production will be clean. The products are designed to meet the standards of the Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM Program, which means that they are as clean as Method can make them. The products themselves help consumers have beautiful, clean homes.”

Cradle to Cradle principles increasingly are being applied to several facets of business. In January, beer brewer Carlsberg joined a group of global suppliers to develop the next generation of packaging products that are optimized for recycling and reuse, otherwise known as “upcycling.” The term, popularized by McDonough & Michael Braungart in 2013’s The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability — Designing for Abundance, espouses the idea that through proper design, humans can have a positive net impact on the social and ecological world. The Upcycle rejects the idea of merely being ‘less bad’ and proposes that we focus more on creating a positive footprint for future generations — all while generating profit.

In December, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute released a list of its top Cradle to Cradle Certified product case studies of 2013. The Institute says the companies and products presented in the collection are redefining traditional notions of quality in ways that meet new expectations of 21st-century customers.


Based in San Francisco, Mike Hower is a sustainability strategist and storyteller on Edelman's Business + Social Purpose team where he works with some of the world's leading brands on corporate sustainability strategy and stakeholder engagement. With several years of… [Read more about Mike Hower]


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