EMME, A RENTAL BUILDING THAT OPENED IN 2017 IN THE WEST LOOP, HAS A TOTAL OF ABOUT 8,000 SQUARE FEET OF FOOD-PRODUCING GREEN ROOF
Green roofs are not uncommon in Chicago, with succulents carpeting the tops of buildings to cool them and save energy. Now comes the next iteration of the concept: Growing food on roofs.Exhibit A: A new West Loop luxury apartment building, Emme, with an 8,000-square-foot rooftop farm that supplies vegetables to some of the hottest local restaurants.Tomato plants, apple trees, edible cornflowers and other crops grow on the parking garage’s third-floor roof, adjacent to a landscaped sundeck. On the 15th floor, beds of peppers eggplant and more fill two broad panels of roof that overlook the 14th-floor swimming pool. This drone video shows all the farmed areas.Nearby restaurants including Avec, Bad Hunter and the Publican have contracted to buy the crops from The Roof Crop, an urban farming company.The building’s tenants will be able to “watch how it happens, be more connected with how tomatoes are grown, more aware of where the food they’re eating comes from,” said Tracy Boychuk, a co-founder of the five-year-old firm, based on Carroll Street on the Near West Side. The Roof Crop has eight rooftop farms in the city. This is its first on a residential building.Because of food safety regulations, tenants can only look but not touch, Boychuk said, but down the line, “if there’s interest from the tenants, this could evolve into something where they’re involved in the farm,” from planting through harvesting and eating. If that happens, it would require separating the renters’ farm from the restaurants’ farm, to preserve food safety. Her firm will also host at least four farm-based events a year in the building, serving food or cocktails that contain roof-grown produce.For now, the farm is essentially a visual amenity, like the art in the lobby.Renters at the building on Des Plaines can “experience (the plants) growing and be curious and feel they’re integrated into their community by it,” said Greg Randall, a principal at GREC Architects, which designed the 199-unit apartment building for developer Gerding Edlen, based in Portland, Oregon.GREC’s thrust is that “sustainability is mainstream, not an add-on,” Randall said.Randall said he envisioned setting aside space for farming from the beginning of the design process for the building, which stands on the site where labor groups and police clashed in the seminal Haymarket Riot of May 1886. GREC had previously designed the Ace Hotel on Morgan Street, with a smaller piece of rooftop farmed by the Roof Crop. GREC has also designed a condo building for a site at 845 W. Madison where 7,500 square feet of 20,000 total will be devoted to crops.