Bringing bees to downtown Chicago
Fostering engagement, education and community with urban beekeeping at EQ Office
There’s no getting around it: today’s real estate and property management industries are all about going beyond simple location and amenities to craft unique and compelling experiences that keep tenants loyal and engaged. Real estate company EQ Office has been quick to pick up on that shift, choosing to intentionally design workspaces for a community-driven culture that allows people to collaborate, create and thrive. In fact, making intentional space for community is one of the four essential components spelled out in the EQ guidelines for nurturing an effective workplace – components the company calls the 4Cs of Spatial Alchemy.
As they thought about creative ways to foster and activate communities in their EQ 350 N Orleans building in Chicago, they reached out to us to explore a novel idea: inviting bees onto their urban rooftop. Months later, we caught up with their team to hear more about their experience, their challenges and their promising results.
EQ 350 N Orleans at a glance
- 30 tenants
- 4K tenant employees
- 10,000 sq ft of waterfront tenant lounge
- 5,000 sq ft of rooftop garden deck
- 10,000 sq ft of fitness facility
- 1,500 sq ft of conference center
Setting the stage for the new buzzing tenants
In their mission to transform their tenant relationships into true partnerships, the EQ team made it a priority to prepare, educate and engage everyone in the building in their brand new beekeeping project. That meant not only addressing their fears and concerns, but getting them involved in complementary projects like the planting of pollinator-friendly plants throughout the rooftop.
Thanks to our turnkey solution, our Chicago-based beekeeper manager Shelby Schulman was also on site to help them manage the onboarding process; suggesting ways to help everyone feel more comfortable with their unorthodox new tenants.
“At first, EQ Office was a bit hesitant about where to place the hive because the space would be shared by the bees and the tenants. But once we explained the true purpose of the bees, the tenants felt at ease and understood what a great opportunity it would be for everyone. We also suggested additional signage set up around the hive so that interested tenants could learn more about their bees outside of our scheduled visits.”
Alongside the helpful signs, the EQ and Alvéole teams also coordinated a series of fun, hands-on workshops for anyone curious to know more. As it turned out, plenty of inquisitive tenants were eager to learn; their “Discover the World of Bees” and “Meet Your Bees with Travis” workshops got rave reviews and great attendance!
From bees, to engagement, to sustainability
Though of course, the EQ team was eager to get tenants involved and interacting with the bees, they saw the project as a gateway to a broader conversation about community, fragile ecosystems and sustainability. And it worked – uniting people from multiple companies, backgrounds and industries around a shared understanding of the delicate balance involved in creating the food and produce we eat. After all, up to 75% of the world’s fruit and seed crops used for human consumption are believed to depend, at least in part, on the work of pollinators to sustain production, yield and quality.
Beyond creating links between the EQ team, tenant companies and their employees, the hives also created a safe and professionally supervised space for people to confront their fears and misunderstandings about their pollinator neighbours. With countless opportunities to observe the bees from afar and learn more about their behaviours, even people who were allergic or scared were able to gradually get used to their presence and quickly became their biggest ambassadors.
So what’s next? The EQ team will be selling a portion of its honey to their tenants and furthering their social impact by donating proceeds to a bee-friendly organization in the Chicago area. As for the rest of the hive’s sweet bounty, rumour has it tenants might just find a new honey-inspired cocktail popping up on the bar menu come harvest time.