In 2009, the owners of Inspiration Kitchens were seeking to help revitalize an impoverished Chicago neighborhood by repurposing a vacant industrial building into a restaurant and job training center. They selected a former textile manufacturing plant and warehouse built in 1906, which abuts the Green Line el train in Garfield Park. Self-sufficiency and sustainability were the watchwords that not only governed the building renovation but have also carried over into its day-to-day operations.
Major Players: Inspiration Corporation, Wheeler Kearns Architects, dbHMS, Terra Engineering, The Heartland Construction Group
Green Upgrade Details
The Inspiration Kitchens project, completed in 2011, consisted of a top-to-bottom modernization of the century-old factory. The design called for leaving the existing roofing and skylights in place, and adding two more roof layers, a foam layer and a reflective white epoxy coating. Rooftop solar thermal collectors were installed to power the hot water system, alleviating the burdensome costs of heating water for dishwashing and other restaurant uses. The brick walls were also insulated.
The overhead skylights direct natural light into the communal dining area. The well-lit kitchen now features water-saving sink fixtures and high-efficiency exhaust hoods over the stoves that operate in response to the amount of heat coming from the burners.
Throughout the 7,300-square-foot building, which is certified as LEED Gold, are examples of materials chosen for properties such as recyclability and low toxicity. The restaurant’s tables and counters are of reclaimed barn wood, and recycled wood pieces that deck the restaurant walls provide a rustic atmosphere as well as keeping noise levels down. Further noise reduction is provided by double- insulated windows facing the train and the super-insulated roof and walls.
Although situated in a tight urban setting, the building has its own garden, yielding seasonal vegetables that are incorporated into the dishes on the menu.