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The Pacific Garden Mission has been a steadfast anchor in the Chicago community since 1877.  The Mission has served as a safe-haven for homeless men and women, offering nourishment for both body and soul.  Today, the Mission continues it's work in a newly constructed 156,000 square foot facility.  It was designed by Tigerman McCurry Architects to obtain LEED Silver certification and includes 100 solar-thermal panels, green roof with native vegetation, low flow water fixtures, locally sourced materials, and recycled construction waste.  The solar panels were donated by the City of Chicago's Renewable Energy Program, which all together, over $245,000 in clean energy grants were donated by the City of Chicago.


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This is truly a unique project for a couple of reasons.  The Mission is the first we've seen to both carry out social and environmental justice with such effectiveness.  So many times we see the homeless neglected and abandoned, and especially towards the bottom of city budgets.  This kind of dedication sends a clear signal that the Mission intends to keep doing good work for decades to come, and as long as there is a homeless population, that work will always be necessary. 

One aspect of the project that stands out to me, is the greenhouses that produce a portion of food for the Mission kitchen that prepares up to 1,800 portions a day.  Yet more importantly, the residents are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the green houses.  The residents learn valuable skills while helping themselves and mother earth.  This is a unique blend of social and environmental justice and could be a prototype for future green building projects. 

Another key aspect of the project is the clean energy grants issued by The City of Chicago and the State of Illinois.  Without the grants, many of the sustainable features would have been value-engineered out of the equation.  This progressive approach makes perfect sense both economically and ethically, and its always encouraging to see local government make investments in its citizens and the environment. 

Greenhouse interior

Greenhouse oblique

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[+] PGM Prepares for Holidays with New Green Facility [pdf]

Photo credits: Tigerman McCurry Architects.