Chicago green building built right

Chicago green building built right

by Robin L. Flanigan

There's the $20,000 he had to sink into a new roof about a decade ago. The $5,500 he had to spend on a new window-and-door unit in the master bedroom to replace the one that leaked when it rained. And now the $10,000 or so to fix the cracking glass-block windows.

These are just some of the expenses Michael Yannell can't wait to put behind him when he moves into his zero-net energy home - one that produces as much energy as it consumes - five miles north of downtown later this year. Yannell's new home is among about a dozen homes registered for LEED for Homes certification in Chicago. and the clinical pharmacist says he is seeking a platinum rating, the highest level.

"The whole experience of living in this energy-hogging, poorly built home – and seeing over the years all the corners that were cut – really pushed me to want to do it right the next time around," says Yannell, a longtime environmental activist.

When he met with the project managers at Farr Associates, an architectural firm focused on sustainable urbanism, "they said they had been waiting for a couple of years for a client to come and ask for the most energy-efficient home there could be," he says.

Yannell's 2,700-square-foot home will have geothermal heating and cooling, passive solar heating, photovoltaic electricity and solar thermal water heating. An innovative plenum wall system – plenum is an area for air circulation typically located below the floor or above a ceiling – expands on the air space located between elements of the masonry and frame wall. "We're going to be capturing natural ventilation from northwesterly winds through low openings in this plenum, which will be drawn up or down depending on the season," explains April Hughes, project manager at Farr Associates.

The project is embracing as much technology as it can with a unique structure. "To our understanding, this is only the second home in the nation in pursuit of both zero-net energy and platinum LEED status," says Keith Dinehart, vice president of marketing and sales at Goldberg General Contracting, which is building Yannell's home.

As of presstime, only one local project had achieved LEED for Homes certification: the Wis Tavern building in Bucktown, which got a gold rating in September after its owners decided to completely overhaul the former corner store and bar. Occupied by Frank and Lisa Mauceri, who live on the second floor and operate a punk rock label on the first, the 5,600-square-foot building features two double-helix wind turbines, 30 solar electric panels, geothermal heating and cooling, and flooring material made in part from crushed vinyl records.

Chicago already boasts more than 300 green roofs atop city buildings thanks to Mayor Richard Daley, who aims to make it the nation's most environmentally friendly place to live. In addition to being chosen by the U.S. Green Building Council for the official launch of LEED for Homes, it offers the Chicago Green Homes program to help city home builders and owners embrace sustainable construction.

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