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Chicago Filmmakers

Chicago, IL

adaptive reuse, historic building, Chicago, green building, building renovations, firehouse

In 2017, Chicago Filmmakers, a nonprofit organization of independent film devotees founded in 1973, moved into their first permanent home, a former firehouse. Filmmakers rescued the deteriorating two-story Chicago landmark, built in 1928 and boarded up in 2008 after firefighters moved out. The new owners installed an elevator, and what was once the firetruck bay is now a screening room, adjoined by a projection booth and library. Upstairs, the space where firefighters used to sleep overnight has been converted into offices and classrooms. The entrance was moved to what used to be the back of the building, located on, appropriately, Hollywood Avenue.

Notable Nugget

The first indie film program in the newly renovated space was Seriously Swingin' Women.

adaptive reuse, historic building, Chicago, green building, building renovations, firehouse

Green Upgrade Details

Though rehabbed on a shoestring budget, this repurposed firehouse contains several energy and water-saving features. A layer of insulation was installed under the attic ceiling. LED lighting is found throughout the structure. The designers kept the firehouse’s many windows, allowing natural light to penetrate into the interior, and added French doors to the downstairs library, inviting more daylight to come through.


Original brick, wood trim, and other building materials were retained wherever possible during the renovation. Gray sandstone stall dividers from the old firehouse’s bathrooms and showers were refurbished and turned into counter tops for the new bathrooms and kitchen, which have water-conserving faucets. Interior surfaces were coated with low-VOC paint and the flooring includes recycled carpet tiles. The building achieved LEED certification.


A new green space directly to the south of the Filmmakers building complements the "greened" firehouse.

Major Players

  • Bureau of Architecture and Design (Bureau/AD)

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