Share this project

Done

Share this project

Done
The Plant: Living Foyer's video poster
Play

Our net-zero vertical farm needs a welcoming entry where our guests and volunteers can see that they are in a new kind of building. Read more

Chicago, IL Food
Share this project
565
backers
$65,230
pledged of $61,200 goal
0
seconds to go

Funded!

This project was successfully funded on December 9, 2013.

Our net-zero vertical farm needs a welcoming entry where our guests and volunteers can see that they are in a new kind of building.

Chicago, IL Food
Share this project

About this project

Background:

Built in 1925 in the Back of the Yards neighborhood of Chicago, the building now known as The Plant functioned as a pork processing facility for almost 85 years until Peer Foods moved out, leaving many of the functional basics behind. Three years later, John Edel's company, Bubbly Dynamics, LLC, purchased the 93,500 square foot space to begin a collaborative and cooperative process to establish a vertical farm and food-business incubator, bringing local produce to Chicago year-round, in a sustainable way. These uses require a lot of energy, but an anaerobic digester paired with a combined heat and power system will allow for net-zero energy consumption by using 30 tons of food waste per day from neighboring businesses to produce enough energy to power the entire building. 

By closing waste and energy loops, we're able to make each process more efficient. Nothing leaves but food!
By closing waste and energy loops, we're able to make each process more efficient. Nothing leaves but food!

This isn't John's first project working with an old industrial building; in 2002 he founded the Chicago Sustainable Manufacturing Center, just north of The Plant, and transformed the old paint warehouse into a green business incubator. A licensed general contractor, John worked with local craftsmen, tenants, and volunteers, bartering for and sometimes purchasing the supplies and skills necessary to make the building fully functional. Using many of these established connections, and continuing to develop new ones, he has worked toward establishing a new kind of sustainable building at The Plant. 

The Ongoing Transformation:

Using the built-in functionality of the building, from its floor drains and heavy insulation to a fully functioning laboratory, a small team of staff members and many volunteers have begun the transformation process. The team has turned most of the basement into an aquaponics growing space while the rest of the basement is rented to other similar operations. The first floor has been prepared for a brewery, and two bakeries operating on the second floor are currently producing scrumptious baked goods which the tenants sell wholesale and at farmers' markets. The Plant is currently also home to a research and education based non-profit called Plant Chicago, which helps to incubate the sustainable food businesses and increase the visibility of urban aquaponics. The building will eventually house 30,000 square feet of sustainable food business space, 36,000 square feet of indoor farming space (both for-profit and non-profit), and shared kitchens and food storage spaces for local businesses. 

Many volunteers have come forward to help John, offering their time, skills, and tools to build the aquaponics system from scratch, remodel the spaces to be rented to sustainable businesses, finish window installation, rewire the building to meet current standards, and deconstruct the parts of the building that need to be redesigned to accommodate new uses. 

Touring the Plant Chicago research and education farm during our annual food truck rally.
Touring the Plant Chicago research and education farm during our annual food truck rally.

Offering a range of skill sets and knowledge, engineers, architects, licensed contractors, plumbers, and many others get together to work on the project as it unfolds. Volunteers are encouraged to join the project when they can, providing their own expertise while learning new skills and gaining appreciation for all that The Plant will offer. A small team of staff members have been hired to maintain budget, build the aquaponics system, manage the mushroom-growing operations and the farm, and organize volunteer and work efforts, but much of the ongoing work is carried on the backs of volunteers, some who come to The Plant daily.

Next Steps:  

Improvements to future tenant spaces are easy to justify given the future revenue opportunity, but it has proven more difficult to focus on improving our own "front door" to the facility. While we have saved a high percentage of the materials taken from the building for future use, construction is still expensive and requires specific skills, and often new materials. Also, although we are fortunate to have a skilled volunteer force that has allowed us to maximize our investments to the site, we will need to hire contractors for specialized tasks making up a sizable portion of this project.

Freshly baked bread at Peerless Bread & Jam, a start-up bakery at The Plant specializing in whole-grain naturally leavened breads and seasonal small batch jams.
Freshly baked bread at Peerless Bread & Jam, a start-up bakery at The Plant specializing in whole-grain naturally leavened breads and seasonal small batch jams.

Project:  

Imagine you walk into a building, with the bright sun shining through huge windows onto informational panels describing a 93,500 square foot building with gardens, kitchens, bakeries, and a brewery, surrounded by grounds that produce more food and the energy for the building. You can imagine how great it would be there, in a little utopia, completely contained on one site. Now, imagine if you were standing in that very building, in a transformative space serving as the portal to the site. The space designated for this vision is currently a loading dock, which we seek to transform into an accessible, inviting space for you: our guests, visitors, businesses, and volunteers. 

Floor plan of proposed improvements. Design by SHED Studio.
Floor plan of proposed improvements. Design by SHED Studio.

We will install an entryway and waiting area that meets the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, giving people of all abilities access to the site and to hands-on learning about sustainable agricultural practices. Not only is ADA accessibility an internal priority, but our current tenants need a way to easily roll carts of fresh baked goods, kombucha, and other foods made here down to their vehicles. The current configuration of all our entryways necessitates climbing steps; the facility itself is not accessible, despite our ongoing interior build-out designed to meet ADA.

The redesigned entryway will include a retail space selling the products made on-site. This "Plant Shop" will provide healthy, local food options as well as an additional revenue opportunity for tenants at The Plant, thereby expanding retail outlets for the businesses we incubate.

Finally, construction of this new entryway will allow us to visually display the benefits of sustainable food production in a formerly abandoned industrial space, which provides education and job opportunities in neighborhood which has suffered severely from the reduction of industrial prowess in the city. By increasing access to the facility, The Plant will build interest with its more professional and welcoming presence, allowing it to accelerate the building process on shared kitchens, further expand sales of produce grown on-site, attract new tenants, and spread our knowledge throughout the region and nation. 

Location of the new entryway, before...
Location of the new entryway, before...
... and after!
... and after!
Surrounded by light and plants.
Surrounded by light and plants.

Where your money will go:  

All of the ramps, lighting, growing systems, and doors for the lobby will be either new or constructed from recycled materials; we anticipate significant cost-savings through repurposing existing materials from elsewhere on-site. Intense cleaning of the existing space, brick repairs, and removal of unneeded materials is also necessary. Most of this work will be done by volunteers, but for ramp and stair construction as well as installation of the glass wall to increase visibility, we will need to hire outside contractors with experience and skills to engineer these to the highest standards.

Adjusting our original estimated budget to reflect efficient use of resources, we were able to decrease our project costs by $16,500, resulting in almost 25% savings and a significantly greater value for your investment dollars.

The cost savings for using recycled and upcycled materials is estimated at $7,500. We estimate that the equivalent of $9,000 in labor hours for demolition, cleaning, fabrication, and building the planting beds will be provided by our amazing crew of skilled volunteers.

Our final budget of $61,200 is broken out as follows:

  • $6,500    Materials for the ramp, handrails and platform 
  • $16,700  Masonry labor and materials 
  • $26,000  Glass wall, including installation 
  • $5,800    Electrical work, LED lighting 
  • $6,200    Growing systems, plantings 
Nasturtium growing in the Plant Chicago farm.
Nasturtium growing in the Plant Chicago farm.

Be sure to check out plantchicago.com for a whole lot more information!

Risks and challenges

When working with an older building it is hard to guarantee we will not discover expensive problems along the way. Luckily, we have been working in this building long enough to know generally what to expect. However, if we do come across unexpected problems, we have a strong team of knowledgeable volunteers and staff members who can react quickly to resolve these problems. A substantial portion of the building materials will be waste-stream, recycled internally from the building, so many of the issues that could arise have been addressed previously by the team.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

FAQ

  • Both are great, try to decide which one you would use more, or which one would inspire you more! If you've always wanted to start a garden, but don't know where, a pair of gloves might be just the thing to get your engine running and get your gumption up to speed to start. But if you already have too many pairs of gardening gloves and need some sun protection as you pick your tasty, satisfying vegetables, get a t-shirt (we promise, farmers' tans garner respect in our community!).

    However, you might be in luck because on Thursday December 5th, we're having Three-fer Thursday (Pledge between 12:01 am and 11:59pm on Thursday)! You can get two gloves (to make a pair!) and one t-shirt for the cost of ONE prize. Or, if you have already donated, get the second prize half cost (add $25 to your pledge and we'll contact you!), Or, get two t-shirts instead (to make sure your tanned on sleeves are the same length on your gardening days). Just select one of the prizes and we'll contact you about your preference!

    Last updated:
  • If you're in the $250+ group, we'll invite you to a ribbon cutting party so you can fully enjoy the experience. At the start of the construction those donors who have pledged more than $250 will be able to come out and see the space before construction begins to get one last look at the loading docks we have used so often in the last couple of years.

    Or, wait til the work is completed and visit for a tour, or volunteer at The Plant to get a true insiders view of the work. Visit PlantChicago.com to learn more about our volunteer and tour opportunities!

    Last updated:
  • Sure, and we've added a floor plan to give you a sense of how the improvements lay out. The retail area will be a prominent space approx. 550 sq. ft., that will be enclosed by a glass wall for good visibility. We anticipate that it would be open during/after tours and events, and at other regular hours TBD to serve visitors and guests from the neighborhood and beyond.

    Last updated:

Rewards

  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    111 backers

    We'll name a fish in one of our aquaponic systems after you (or give it the name you want). We will email you a PDF of the naming certificate with a picture of your fish!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    117 backers

    A Plant T-shirt, so you can wear our logo everywhere you go! Plus, naming rights for a fish, as described in reward #1.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    36 backers

    The Plant gardening gloves, to remind you of everything you've helped create with your pledge while you garden in your own space. Plus, naming rights for a fish, as described in reward #1.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    110 backers

    Two tickets to a Tasting Tour, a semiannual open house of The Plant highlighting our food-producing businesses and their products. You'll get to meet many of the entrepreneurs and see their spaces. Plus, your choice of reward #2 or #3.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    25 backers

    A gift basket with foods made and grown at The Plant from a mix of our tenants: Arize Kombucha, Peerless Bread and Jam, Plant Chicago, and Pleasant House. Plus, all preceding rewards (choose between gloves or t-shirt).

    Pick this up at The Plant or one of our Farmers' Market stands for free, or add $20 for shipping to your location.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    8 backers

    Two invitations to an exclusive dinner reception with The Plant founder John Edel and recognition in our newsletter. Plus, all preceding rewards (choose between gloves or t-shirt).

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    12 backers

    Your name (or a name you designate) inscribed on a wall in our new lobby, which will recognize major contributors who help us realize our improvements. Plus, all preceding rewards!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $5,000 or more

    1 backer

    A private tour for you and up to 20 of your friends with John OR an aquaponics class for a small group. This will be your opportunity to ask all the pesky questions you've wanted to know. The tour can be tailored to your interests as well!

    Plus, all preceding rewards!

    Estimated delivery:

Funding period

- (60 days)