Green Residences in Chicago Gain Ground

Posted on March 9th, 2010 in All Articles, Green Housing.

I included this excellent article From Chicago Assoc. of Realtors-Phil Buoscio

Living LEED: Green Residences Gaining Ground in Chicago

Numerous downtown office buildings, several branches of the Chicago Public Library, and even the new Target store at Peterson and Damen are evidence of Chicago’s citywide resolve to build in accordance with the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Facilitated by the U.S. Green Building Council, the LEED Green Building Rating System™ “encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria” (USGBC).

For several years now, the City of Chicago and various corporations headquartered in Chicago have worked to achieve LEED status. Now, architects and builders are beginning to apply LEED standards to residences, with a new series of LEED for Home designations. Imagine living under a green roof, or in a zero net energy house, or even helping your college-aged child settle into their LEED-certified dorm room. Now, thanks to the popularity and success of commercial LEED properties, eco-conscious living has reached a whole new level. And this new trend is citywide, not simply concentrated in new construction-heavy neighborhoods, like the South Loop.

LEED-ing the Pack

The LEED for Homes Green Building Rating System™ awards designations based on a point system, ranking buildings for their sustainability in eight categories: Innovation & Design Process, Locations & Linkage, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Awareness & Education. Based on the total number of points earned by a property, it is given a designation of, from lowest to highest: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. More information on the rating system can be found at the U.S. Green Building Council Web site,

Renewable Energy Homes

At 4895 N. Ravenswood Ave., ground has broken on a 2,675 square foot that hopes to be “Chicago’s first functional zero net energy home,” with aspirations to earn the coveted LEED for Homes Platinum designation ( Working with Chicago-based architecture firm Farr Associates, whose concentration is sustainable urbanism, owner Michael Yannell has commissioned every conceivable conservation measure, from solar panels to rainwater harvesting to two green roofs for the two-story plus basement home. He has also earned the distinction of being the first single-family home in the City of Chicago with a greywater system approved by both the City of Chicago and the Illinois State Public Health Department.

Yannell claims that two factors influenced his decision to pursue his zero net energy home, which is still under construction in Ravenswood. “First, I had always wanted to build a home like this,” he says. “But second, in Chicago over the past 10 years, there’s been a rash of tear downs and construction of cookie cutter homes that aren’t taking the environment into consideration as they’re being built.” Yannell should know—he currently lives in one of them. He has tried replacing windows and doors and the whole roof in order to increase the efficiency of his current home; but when he saw the lot in Ravenswood with sizeable southern exposure and an unobstructed view to the west due to the Metra tracks, he knew it was perfect.

Yannell knows that it is unlikely other Chicagoans will go to the lengths he has to design and build a zero net energy home—the maintenance of the greywater system alone requires a great investment of his time, and the Department of Health will be stopping in to inspect the system for the first year. But his hope is that people will consider adapting one of two of the conservation measures he has implemented. For Yannell, however, the extra effort will almost certainly pay off with a LEED Platinum designation.

Farr Associates, the architectural firm collaborating with Yannell on the project, hails the LEED for Homes rating system as a benchmark. “There are often companies representing processes and products that are not as sustainable as they claim to be,” says April Hughes, Project Manager, Farr Associates. “LEED for Homes maintains a level of accuracy.”

Yannell is already looking forward to his next collaboration with Farr Associates: a LEED-certified animal shelter for cats.


The Wis Tavern building at 1825 W . Wabansia Ave. in Bucktown is home to the Mauceri family, and upon completion in 2007, was the first LEED Home Gold Certified residence in Illinois. Workign with the owners, design team Aerotecture International and Wilkinson Blender Architecture Inc., created the first wind-supported, renewable energy, multiunit building in Chicago. Aerotecture Aeroturbines power the home quietly and safely, which keeps the neighbors happy, and the potential for zero energy consumption keeps the eco-conscious homeowners living green.

Affordable LEED Living

While building a LEED designated home can be expensive, living in one doesn’t have to be. Affordable and mixed-income housing developments are earning LEED distinctions in Chicago as well.

Completed in November 2005, Wentworth Commons, owned by Mercy Housing Lakefront, offers 51-units of affordable housing to at-risk and low-income families and individuals, and provides supportive services, such as employment training and a family resource center, to its residents. Visible solar panels and recycled materials helped earn Wentworth Commons its LEED designation, and a graffiti-resistant exterior and native plants (eliminating the need for irrigation) keep the building looking beautiful.

The City of Chicago and several developers are working on implementing conservation measures in many more affordable and mixed-income housing developments, citywide

LEED Condominiums Move North

For green homebuyers who love the idea of LEED condominium living but aren’t interested in downtown high-rise buildings, there is good news: LEED condominiums are creeping northward, and not necessarily in high-rise form.

Helios Realty and Development chose 2800 Lincoln Ave. ( as the location for their forthcoming nine-unit, sustainable condominium building in part because of access to public transportation. “The location is phenomenal in that it is so close to the Brown Line and connected to both Lakeview and Lincoln Park,” says REALTOR® Hans Fedderke of Helios. With green features, such as energy efficient appliances, recycled quartz countertops, and an estimated 50% annual energy savings for its future residents, 2800 Lincoln is gunning for an LEED Gold designation, and according to Fedderke, it seems well within reach. 2800 Lincoln uses a geothermal system, solar energy for water heating, and a green roof.

“We think that the homeowners will derive an immediate benefit from the energy savings,” he says. Three of the units are penthouses, with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and two-story decks.

With delivery expected in late spring/early summer of 2009, pre-sales in 2800 Lincoln are already selling at listing price, indicating that homebuyers who make green living a priority are willing to pay for it, regardless of market conditions.

LEED Dorm Living

St. Xavier University is always conscious of the impact its new construction has on the surrounding environment; so in 2006, they broke ground on the Rubloff Hall dormitory, which became the first university building in Illinois to receive the LEED Gold designation. Today, Rubloff Hall and its new sister residence, which also received LEED Gold status, are the most popular residences on campus. “Rubloff and its new sister building filled immediately,” says Joe Moore, Director of Media Relations at St. Xavier. “The natural lighting, emphasis on recycling, in-room bike racks, 1,000-square-foot roof garden, and other green amenities are very popular. They are beautiful buildings that teach students to live in harmony with the planet.”

In addition to building all new construction on campus to similar standards, University President Judith A. Dwyer, Ph.D., was the first university president in Chicago to sign the Presidents Climate Commitment, “a pledge by more than 450 colleges and universities across the nation to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions,” says Moore. “Saint Xavier also begins its unique GreenBike program this fall, which will allow SXU students, staff and faculty to borrow bikes for free in increments of 15 minutes from 14 computerized docking stations around the Chicago Campus. SXU is the first in the country to import this proven concept, which is designed by Veolia Transportation subsidiary Veloway and extensively used in Europe.”

In single-family homes, condominiums, affordable housing, and even dormitories, LEED is changing the way homeowners look at the places they call home.