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Optimo Hats firehouse (3).JPG

Optimo Hats Headquarters

Chicago, IL

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

A former firehouse, this two-story Chicago landmark was built in 1914. The 7,770-square-foot structure housed Engine Company 121 until 2008, when the firefighters moved down the street. In 2013, luxury hatmaker Optimo Hats bought the vacant firehouse from the City for $1.00. Three years and a complete overhaul later, they moved their factory headquarters into the building. Now, on the main floor, where fire trucks once parked, men’s felt hats are lovingly fashioned from beaver fur. The firefighters’ old sleeping quarters upstairs have been turned into stylish offices, a design studio, display area, lounge, and kitchen.

Notable Nugget

Employees and customers can peek between the first and second floors via two porthole windows, made from the round openings cut for the old firepoles.

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

Green Upgrade Details

The firehouse-to-factory transition was a done with an eye toward saving energy and maximizing light. Sunlight pours into the high-ceilinged hat assembly room through large windows, supplemented by LED task lights. Occupancy sensors and daylight-responsive controls regulate the amount of artificial light in the space.

Heat rises from hidden tubes circulating hot water below each floor. Other sustainable features include water-saving bathroom fixtures and marble from the firehouse’s shower stalls transformed into kitchen surfaces. Low-toxicity coatings were used where possible, even on Optimo’s modern hatmaking equipment, painted with low-VOC matte black to match their antique Singer sewing machines.

The structure was awarded LEED Silver certification.

Major Players

  • Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill

  • Helios Construction Services

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