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Project Name: Chicago Botanic Garden Field Office, Glencoe, Illinois

Interior eco-friendly portable office Chicago Botanic Garden McDonald Modular

An interior shot of the field office, including skylights and energy efficient fixtures and controls

Project Details:

The Chicago Botanic Garden required mobile office space to serve as their base for a new Wetlands Rehabilitation project. The average space solution, however, simply would not do. The Garden’s mission, “to promote the enjoyment, understanding, and conservation of plants and the natural world” is engrained into each aspect of their operation. The Botanic Garden needed a sustainable, responsibly-built office that did not lack functionality. A straightforward, open plan was desired to accommodate the coordination meetings held by the Army Corps’ engineer and owner’s representative. 


LEED principals guided our design. By weight, 78% of the office building is recycled or reused content.  New materials such as Armstrong Biobased tile, Masonite wheat fiber core doors and new Forest Stewardship Council tracked lumber mills were chosen. Formaldehyde free insulation, low Volatile Organic Compound chemicals, high MIRV filters, and plasma filters ensure indoor air quality. Skylights and low-e argon filled windows provide natural lighting while also cutting energy costs. Water is conserved by using a pressure assist low flow toilet and metering faucet. Building comfort is achieved with a High Efficiency heat pump, as well as programmable thermostats for each space.  LED light panels with motion-sensitive switches and point-of-use water heating conserve electricity. Less technical measures such as applying housewrap, sealing all openings and hydraulic door closers keep the building sealed. Bright interior colors were chosen to harmonize with the added sunlight on the inside, while insulated skirting protects the underside of the building outside. Horizontal siding and the blue band toward the sky were chosen to accentuate the prairie setting. These lines and materials were chosen to make a statement that this was not a traditional mobile office.


  • Administrative Space
  • Government or University Space
  • Volunteer Headquarters


  • Open floorplan
  • 78% of building material is recycled or reused
  • Exterior materials and statement-making aesthetics chosen to accent building's surroundings


  • Collaboration between Modularair, Manufactured Structures Corporation engineering and McDonald Modular’s LEED AP combined to find the most effective means to accomplish the design criteria. 
  • Initial costs were reduced by significant savings from selective reuse of materials within the building.
  • An energy study by Modularair showed a minimum of $3,000 per year electric energy savings at $0.10 per KW.
  • The LED light panels are rated at 50,000 hours.  Fabral 24-guage steel siding with Kynar finish is a significant upgrade in exterior treatment.  Both items will reduce the on-going maintenance cost for the owner.
  • Relocatable aspects of the design such as overall dimensions, installations and hauling methods were chosen to be as standard as possible to minimize costs and allow for competition to move the structure.