1823 Church Street, Evanston Map
Enterprise Development Foundation
The Boocoo Cultural Center and Cafe in Evanston's 5th Ward was built to engage the community at a local level in many different ways. The 5000 square foot facility, previously a gas station, grocer, and dollar store, now contains a music school, recording studio, 125-seat performance space, yoga and fitness classes, and a cafe specializing in organic and free-trade fare. Boocoo, in the words of its director Carolina Pfister, aims to be "a long lasting model of sustainability while catering to human health, intellect, and happiness." The building boasts several traditional green elements such as permeable pavers, and some that are more unique, like insulation made from recycled blue jeans. But as it turns out, the greenest features of this building are rooted in Boocoo's commitment to all things local.
In fact, going local is one of the best ways to be sustainable. The term "carbon footprint" is often used to quantify a person's personal impact on global warming, but it can be applied to buildings or companies too. You can calculate your own personal carbon footprint by adding up all of the greenhouse gas emissions from everything you do everyday, from the gas burned in your drive to work to the coal used to generate the electricity that charges your iPod. One of the hidden aspects of a product's carbon footprint is the fuel and energy spent in transporting the food and products you buy and use. Therefore, one of the easiest ways to reduce your impact on the environment is to buy and use products and services that are grown or produced locally. The Boocoo Cultural Center and Cafe is a great model of this; instead of trucking in all of its basil and cilantro for it's cafe from California, the Boocoo Cafe is creating herb planters to grow their own.
When it comes to heating and cooling the building, Boocoo doesn't rely on oil from Alaska or coal from Carbondale. Instead, they use the energy stored in the ground right under their feet. A geothermal energy system similar to others in the area produces very little greenhouse gas emissions. The vertical, closed-loop system circulates 16 tons of water and glycol (an alcohol used as an antifreeze) through 13 loops that each reach 150 feet underground, where the temperature stays constant year-round. Indie Energy, who built and installed the geothermal system, also donated half of the first costs. While the initial costs of geothermal systems are usually higher, the payoff comes in lower operating costs. Boocoo expects to spend 50 and 70% less annually on their heating and cooling bills than they would with a traditional system.
Boocoo was built by the Community Builders of Evanston, another branch of the Enterprise Development Foundation. Community Builders hires and trains local Evanston residents in construction trade skills and the knowledge needed to run a construction company, giving them upward mobility and keeping many of them off the streets. It's just one more way Boocoo is meeting its goal of supporting the local community.