Sweet Home Chicago Ferrara Candy Company’s New Office

Adaptive-reuse projects tend to elicit feelings of excitement from some engineers and trepidation from others.

That’s because these projects tend to be highly complex. The new office of the Ferrara Candy Company, maker of such well-loved treats as Sweetarts, Laffy Taffy, and Red Hots, is no exception. But Syska’s reaction was – and still is – excitement.

Ferrara’s new home is “The Post Office” – a mixed-use facility converted from Chicago’s former main post office, which was built in 1921. In 1997, the main post office moved, and the building sat vacant for 20 years. Today, thanks to a recent $800 M renovation, the site is one of the hottest destinations for the Windy City’s business community.

Ferrara initially leased 77,000 square feet at the property to house 400 employees. As part of a project team that included NELSON (architects), Syska was tasked with designing MEP, fire protection, structured cabling, audiovisual, security, and architectural lighting for the new space.

During this process, Syska faced several obstacles. One was elevation. “Each floor has heights of 18 feet,” explains Syska’s Thomas Webb, PE, LEED AP, who served as the project manager. “And we had very little leeway to put ceilings in, given the requirement to preserve historical elements of the building. That meant exposed structures.”

With this in mind, Syska carefully coordinated details with the architect and other trades to ensure appropriate placement of duct work routing, conduits, cable trays, and all low-voltage wiring. “It was a holistic approach to design,” Thomas notes. “In this application, we had to verify with the entire project team that no piece of equipment created conflicts.”

Xun Jia, Sustainability Lead: We test the water quality, light quality, air quality, and sound levels. WELL sets certain thresholds for all of these areas. Air, for example, should have low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and particulate matters (PMs). There has to be a certain exposure to light. And we make sure that certain noise levels are controlled throughout the office space – acoustical comfort is important.

Images: ©Ferrara

“Ferrara’s space was built with the employee experience in mind and it’s showing through in the response from employees. We have seen a significant growth in organic employee relationships, engagement and cross-functional collaboration."