Cottage Home LEED for Homes Lakefront

Cottage Home Sets New Standard for Sustainable Lakefront Living

Using his home building expertise, Brian Bosgraaf started Cottage Home in 2000 specializing in building custom homes along Lake Michigan. Cottage Home has designed and built more than 70 custom homes along the West Michigan shoreline, including 13 LEED certified homes. In an interview with Brian, he expressed his passion for LEED certification and sustainable construction practices.

When Brian and Jeremy vanEyk (Vice President) were asked about their commitment to building LEED, they responded that Cottage Home is committed to utilizing healthy, affordable, efficient, and durable construction practices that are already above code, energy star and even LEED at times. Brian says he considers LEED only one of the many tools in his toolbox. Other such tools include creative design, customer service, careful selection of materials, and creating a sense of place. In order to make it simple for the customer, Cottage Home uses a fixed price prior to starting construction which already includes LEED qualifications. This allows some of the cost of LEED certification to be absorbed by both the customer and through the Cottage Homes marketing budget.  Brian believes this method works due to his design and construction teams working together throughout the construction process, which creates a feedback loop that fosters constant improvement.  Including LEED certification into the final cost helps facilitate more sales than presenting each option with separate pricing.

Since many homeowners today are educated and concerned about sustainability and environmental issues,  many take time to study the details of LEED on the website of Cottage Home and take comfort in knowing LEED is a third party certification. Clients are aware of LEED’s achievements and credibility, and often wonder about how changes to the house affect the LEED certification level. Much of Cottage Home’s customer base is from the Chicago area where LEED is prevalent in their office buildings, and a result, many clients have experienced the advantages offered by LEED construction firsthand. These clients have often already invested in commercial LEED projects and are now ready to transition these same high standards to their personal lives. Jeremy decided to experience the benefits of LEED firsthand and chose to have his own house in Zeeland, certified LEED Platinum.

Building on the lake front comes with complications such as extreme wind loads, humid changes, temperature fluctuation, and other variables. To overcome these challenges, Cottage Home uses high performance home measures to control the entire process though design, build, and some maintenance which allows more control of green features. Cottage Home designs and builds what is right for each particular home which may result in homes varying in different HVAC, insulation, passive solar heating, and various climate control systems.  One particular feature that is commonly used in these homes, including Jeremys, is an ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator).   An ERV automatically exhausts stale air from the inside of the house and replaces it with fresh air from the outside.  Another key feature used in many of the homes is a geothermal system.  There are a few different types used, but all contribute to the energy efficiency of the homes in some way.  Several techniques are used to increase water efficiency in the homes, such as tankless water heaters, which only heat water when necessary, water collection systems to help with sprinking and irrigation, and faucets and showerheads that work with less water than traditional ones.  Insulation, as well as materials such as flooring, home furnishings and walls are all aspects that need to be carefully considered when building these homes.

As leaders in the industry we asked Brian and Jeremy what they saw in the future of design and construction. Jeremy believes that being able to evaluate the effectiveness of high performance systems and insulation through energy bills is important. Along with water collection systems to reduce storm water runoff and help irrigate the lawn.  Brian agrees that we should have a system to allow clients to ensure they are getting the most effective homes. He foresees homes that can be manipulated to meet the client’s needs at any given time. An example of this would be homes with the ability to accommodate a family of four, which can then transition to accommodate sleeping arrangements for twenty. Along with being able to better meet a client’s needs, he would like to see energy loads distributed to only sections of the house in use, as well as the ability for clients to control how energy is used throughout the home (on site and from satellite locations).  Cottage Home sees one challenge to moving forward with these ideas is getting sub-contractors to approach basic air sealing, insulation, proper HVAC sizing, and design aesthetics with an effective mindset. Cottage Home has established themselves as innovators and leaders in the design of luxury LEED lake front homes. They continue to partner quality, design and the environment hand in hand to produce sustainability along our beaches.

Quick Numbers – Average HERS Score 51 Average LEED score 75 

Learn & see more about their LEED projects below.

51 W. Central

Beach House on Monroe Blvd.

Fabun Road Cottage

Green Cottage at Suequehanna

LakeBridge Beach House

LakeBridge One

Monroe Beach House

North Beach Cottage

Northgate Lake Home

Pier Cove Cottage

Summer’s Gate 4 and 8

The Havens Cottage

Waukazoo Woods Residence





Top 10 Neighborhood in Nation just got greener with new LEED Home

The home at 1135 North Grove has earned LEED Platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for achievement in green homebuilding and design. It will be the first residence in Oak Park to receive LEED certification, and this new custom home was built for less than $150 per square foot.

1135nGrove-OakPark1135 North Grove is one of 40 homes in Chicagoland that have been certified using LEED (view the LEED Project Profile).  The single-family home was built by Wicklow Development Group, renowned for their expertise in green building and historic preservation. Through their commitment to green homebuilding, Wicklow Development Group is helping to keep homeownership affordable. Green homes have substantially lower utility bills[1] and may qualify for advantageous financing, lower insurance rates and government incentives.

“As a LEED Platinum home, 1135 North Grove is at the national forefront of green homes, and serves as a model of healthy and efficient living for the entire community,” said Jason La Fleur, Regional Director for the Green Home Institute, who also served as the third-party verifier for the project. “Their example can help us all to live better by reducing our environmental footprint, cutting the costs of our utility bills, and coming home to a healthier place to live.” La Fleur is hosting a free webinar on May 9 for real estate professionals interested in learning more about LEED homes.

Oak Park Solar PV panels
Solar panels on the roof of 1135 Grove

1135 North Grove reduces energy use 66% below the typical new home built to code.  The four bedroom project features low-e argon windows, high efficiency lighting fixtures, detailed attention to preventing air leakage, and blown-in fiberglass insulation.  Other energy efficiency upgrades include a geothermal heating system which also provides most hot water heat, and a rarely-used backup electric water heater. An ultra-efficient electric induction cooktop is used in the kitchen. The roof angle was optimized for solar panels which produce electricity to power the home, without visually disturbing the home’s facade.

Located in one of the “Top 10 Neighborhoods in the Nation” according to the American Planning Association, the home features a very walk-friendly location in the heart of a neighborhood with many historic homes designed by notable architects.

Homeowner Tim Carey says, “Fitting a new construction home into a historic neighborhood creates a challenge for designers and builders. This project demonstrates that you can build a beautiful, traditional looking home, with a green design and features, yet keep with the character of an established community such as Oak Park.”

Electric induction cooktop and high end kitchen finishes

Induction cooktop and high-end kitchen finishes

As a result of incorporating energy saving products and technologies, 1135 North Grove has achieved an impressively low 34 Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score. Additionally, the combination of electric using-and-producing systems at 1135 North Grove has resulted in affordable energy bills for the homeowners who have been living in the home for a full year. The house has had modestly low electricity bills, and as an all-electric home no natural gas is used, so there are no natural gas bills.

A heat recovery ventilator provides fresh air distributed throughout the home to keep it healthy for the homeowners and recovering some of the energy used to condition the air. Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint and locally sourced materials have been used throughout the house.  Proving building green can be done affordably, 1135 North Grove was built with a total construction cost of $145 per square foot after renewable energy incentives, below the Chicagoland average construction cost for custom new homes.


Learn more and see construction photos at the project web site for 1135 North Grove, or view theLEED Project Profile for the home.

About Wicklow Development Group

The Wicklow Development Group LLC are landmark building and restoration professionals, and have been a Chicagoland builder for over 25 years with a passion for historic preservation and green building expertise.   For more information, contact Paul Wicklow 708-351-9683, or

LEED and Living Building Challenge Workshops in Illinois

Earn the LEED Green Associate (LEED GA) and/or learn about LEED for Homes in an upcoming workshop!

Mon. May 21 – Bolingbrook, IL – LEED GA: Core Concepts and Strategies
Tue. May 22 – Bolingbrook, IL – HOMES 252: Understanding the LEED for Homes Rating System

Sat. June 2 – Chicago, IL – LEED GA: Core Concepts and Strategies
Sat. June 9 – Chicago, IL – HOMES 252: Understanding the LEED for Homes Rating System

June 21 – 22 – Bolingbrook, IL – HOMES 401:  LEED for Homes Green Rater Training

Mon. June 18 – Chicago, IL – Understanding the Living Building Challenge

House Pic

Worlds 1st LEED Platinum & NAHB Emerald Certified Gut Rehab


The goal of this home was to take a foreclosed home in disrepair and turn it into a high performance, healthy, utility efficient, environmentally responsible, and very durable home. Durability planning was used in conjunction with building science flashings and maintenance free exterior materials with lifetime warranties. The energy efficiency was improved by almost 300% on this home with air sealing, wall cavity insulation, exterior insulation, and windows with a .20 u factor. All materials used were non- toxic, low VOC, and had no added urea formaldehyde.

This home received two exemplary performance credits for MR 2.2. This was due to many extra points in that category for a high level of reclaimed materials usage, the use of locally produced products, and the use of low emitting products. All lumber used for framing in this house was reclaimed lumber. This remodel was done as an investment property, rehabbed and turned over and placed on the market for sale. The sales prices was comparable to other rehabbed homes in the local market. Construction costs on this project were impressively low at $55.00 per square foot.

This project was featured in the Chicago Tribune, Exerpt below.

Few homebuilding materials can’t be reused or recycled, said Brandon Weiss, president and owner of Elgin-based Weiss Building, who recently salvaged 99 percent of the material from a four-bedroom, two-bath home he rehabbed in Elgin.

“Everything that could get a second life, I donated,” said Weiss, who has become somewhat of an expert at reusing construction leftovers, filling in old crawl spaces with leftover bricks and using stones as landscaping accents.

While the tax benefits from donating construction materials are nice, it’s “our children’s future” that clinched the case for him, he said: “Our landfills are full. You can try to close that loop and reuse things.”

Homeowners who are planning a construction project should know that many waste companies can recycle discarded materials from trash containers and will prepare a report on the percentage of materials they are able to divert from landfills, said Jason LaFleur, regional director of the nonprofit Green Home Institute.

“If they can’t provide the service, you might want to think about going with someone else,” he said.,0,2153317.story


Illinois Net-Zero-Energy masterpiece producing 40 percent more energy than it consumes

Starting with an eco-conscious dream for a truly green home transformed owner Michael Yannell’s Chicago residence into a $1.6 million, two-story 2,675-square-foot, four-bedroom and two-bath Net-Zero-Energy masterpiece, producing 40 percent more energy than it consumes.

Completed in 2009, it is not only Chicago’s first LEED Platinum-certified home, but it has scored higher than any other LEED-certified project in history. Architect Farr Associates, builder Goldberg General Contracting Inc. and engineering MEP firm dbHMS created this urban infill project to utilize aspects of alternative energies through passive solar, solar grid technology, a greywater system and closed looped geothermal heating and cooling components. According to owner Michael Yannell, the main goal of this project was to create a more energy- and water-efficient, environmentally conscious place to live and to set an example by building a home as sustainable as possible. Incidentally, the green materials generally were no more expensive than conventional alternatives.

This Net-Zero-Energy residence was built using the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED for Homes Pilot Program regulations. In order to earn the coveted LEED Platinum-certification, a project must meet the 100-point requirement, in which the Yannell residence scored 115.5. According to Net-Zero statistics, the Yannell residence generates 18,000 kWh/yr and uses only 12, 689 kWh/yr, earning the Yannell property an approximate $52,000 in tax credits in 2008-2009.

According to Jonathon Boyer, principal and director of architecture for Farr Associates, the permit and design processes were a challenge from the beginning, but thanks to help from a hand-picked team, deadlines were met and the project was a success.

“We put together a team of engineers, contractors and a landscape architect, and the entire project was a team effort,” Boyer said. “Building Net-Zero-Energy is very difficult, and it requires cooperation between all components and consultants. We believe we’ve broken the sound barrier with this house, especially in the Chicago area.” design-solutions-ed1210-01.jpg

This being the first LEED-certified home came with obstacles along the way. According to Boyer, by creating new systems such as the greywater system, which recycles water used from the washing machine for the toilets, it was tricky trying to solidify the permit process. It has opened up new options for Chicago to consider when building more sustainable homes.

“It was a learning process, the city of Chicago was open to it. We didn’t have any hard and clear standards in the city for permitting this kind of system,” Boyer explained. “As a result of this house, the city of Chicago Committee of Standards and Tests is adopting a new state / city code for rainwater / greywater reuse. “We were pioneers and induced the city to think about changing permits to use more sustainable elements into the residential market,” Boyer said.

Other than utilizing alternative energies, the Yannell residence’s modern design integrated into the traditional neighborhood fuses form with function in a dense infill space. The home was built on a recycled lot where the previous building could not be salvaged. Boyer explained that typically energy-efficient homes are bland and lack style, but in this case, the owner and the building team wanted something well-designed and unique.”He [owner, Michael Yannell] wanted

something aesthetically compelling and functional,” Boyer said.

The floor plan is designed as a dual-wing connected by a foyer, which acts as an entry and passageway, both equipped with south-facing windows to utilize natural light and garden views. The positioning of the wings help compete with the Midwestern climate year-round. With temperatures ranging from the high 90s in the summer to blistering zero-below winters, it was crucial to find the most sustainable design possible. Each wing has a uniquely shaped multi-functional V-shaped green-roof designed for stormwater management and for concealing the 48 photovoltaic grids on the home. “The

butterfly pattern roofs are designed to screen the solar panels from view, while providing an ideal angle for the panels to harness the sun’s energy,” Boyer said. Although the Yannell residence has received the highest LEED score, the materials it took to achieve the title are not unattainable for other eco-conscience projects. According to Boyer, “LEED for Homes is less than $3,000 for certification.” In this case, it assisted in the construction process by acting as a detailed guide when installing aspects such as air quality, water systems and when planning the positioning.

Although there is no set specific standard definition for a Net-Zero- Energy home, Boyer said that there are other homes out there that claims to be Net-Zer-Energy, but many have only lowered their energy consumption. Only the Yannell property has the data to back it up. According to Principal of MEP firm dbHMS, Sachin Anand, “It’s [the Yannell residence] the future of housing and power generation where each home is a greenhouse emission-free power plant.”

View LEED for Homes Project Profile

Photography By Christopher Barrett. Evan Lancaster is an editorial assistant at Green Homebuilder magazine. He may be contacted at

Built for the Future. The Yannell residence in Ravenswood, Ill., a traditional neighborhood outside of Chicago, breaks barriers of traditional homebuilding by perfecting green practices. From

LEED platinum-certified home in Chicago is a showcase for stylish living

The total cost was $1.6 million. That may seem like a lot of money, but if you look at any other custom-built house this big—it’s 2,675 square feet on a double lot in Chicago—it’s going to cost at least that much. Incidentally, the green materials generally were no more expensive than conventional alternatives.

ELLE DECOR: Why did you decide to build a LEED platinum house?

MICHAEL YANNELL: I wanted to set an example. I had been very frustrated with the construction I was seeing in Chicago. There are so many green options, but nobody was using them. People assume it’s too cold, it’s too cloudy, for solar energy. I wanted to show it could be done here.

ED: So it’s a kind of demonstration house?

MY: I’m not saying every house should be like mine. I’m saying, look at my house, take one detail, and start there.

ED: To accomplish that, you have to be willing to let the world see how you live.

MY: After I moved in I began giving tours constantly—usually an hour long, and limited to ten people, because there were always lots of questions. We started outside the house, and I explained the macro design of the home and then went room by room. I think people have been surprised by how beautiful the house is on the inside. I don’t know what they were expecting.

ED: So, give us the tour.

MY: The house is divided into two wings, so every room has a southern exposure. I think that’s a huge benefit, to not have any room be always dark. I never have to turn a light on during the day. In the winter months, it really has a beneficial psychological effect. The north side, by contrast, has only a few small windows—you’d lose too much heat otherwise.

ED: The solar panels all face south.

MY: Yes. But it doesn’t jump out as a house with solar tacked onto it. One of the things the architects insisted on was having as many of the solar panels hidden from view as possible. That’s one of the reasons the roof has that V shape. All the panels are on the north side of the V, and the south side of the V hides them from sight.

ED: How much did all this cost?

MY: The total cost was $1.6 million. That may seem like a lot of money, but if you look at any other custom-built house this big—it’s 2,675 square feet on a double lot in Chicago—it’s going to cost at least that much. Incidentally, the green materials generally were no more expensive than conventional alternatives. The big items were the heating and cooling systems. But you can take tax credits for 30 percent of those. So basically I won’t owe income tax for the next few years.

ED: How did you choose the finishes?

MY: Every material that went into the house has some environmental story. The exterior is a combination of durable fiber-cement board and Forest Stewardship Council–certified cedar, covered in a cocoa soy-based stain. I love the contrast of dark and light.

ED: And the interior finishes?

MY: In the south wing the floors are a dark brown recycled-porcelain tile, which is very earthy, very soft. In the north wing the floors are made from scrap lumber, which would have ended up in a landfill. It’s walnut, with a clear coat that gives it a warm, natural feel. In the bedrooms, I chose dyed-clay walls. Besides looking good, they absorb sound better than regular painted walls. And clay also absorbs humidity, which is a nice feature in the summer.

ED: Does the furniture have the same kind of environmental credibility?

MY: Much of it is steel, which is recyclable. That’s one of the reasons we bought a lot of furniture from Knoll. The house has a midcentury look, so Knoll was right up our alley. All of the fabrics are Greenguard certified.

ED: What about the art?

MY: We chose the work of a Venezuelan artist, Radames, who works with Plexiglas scraps. I liked the designs, but I don’t like Plexiglas, because it has a high petroleum content. So we asked if he could work with 3form, which is an eco-resin product. He came up with seven or eight pieces for inside and a sculpture for the backyard, so it’s a green art collection as well.

ED: Speaking of art, the house has gallery reveals—those subtle recesses where the walls meet the windows and door frames.

MY: We used reveals throughout the house. I had never even heard the term before. It became known as the “R-word” during the design phase. It added to the cost, but it was really important to the architects. I have to admit, I appreciate how good it looks.

What the Pros Know

Architect Jonathan Boyer, of Chicago’s Farr Assoc., says the house is designed to produce as much energy as it consumes. But, he adds, he knew it would get the point across only if it also looked good.

• Be flexible: Most of the materials were produced locally—a key green principle—but when he needed an attractive cement board, Boyer had to buy a European product.

• Do double duty: The butterfly roof provides shading in summer and optimal placement for the solar panels. The V shape collects rainwater, which is used for irrigation.

• Exploit technology: “Thanks to LEDs, we were able to flood the rooms with light,” says Boyer, “despite using fixtures so compact you hardly see them.”

Click here to see the gallery of the Home

Written by Fred A. Bernstein • Photographed by Tony Soluri • Produced By Susan Victoria

Chicago Magazine posts photos of LEED gut rehab

Chicago Magazine recently profiled a gut rehab home that achieved LEED Platinum certification, and included a photo tour of the Helenowski residence. The home “now energy-neutral or better, meaning it generates enough power to meet its own needs and to sell excess into the power grid.”

Also featured is an affordable green home remodel selling for $150,000.

View details and the photo tour at the Chicago Magazine online blog.

Prefab LEED Home Focus of Green Magazine

Chicago’s green consumer magazine, Mindful Metropolis, released their January issue with an article focusing on the first prefabricated LEED home in the city of Chicago.  The project, which toured in December, is the focus of a two-page cover story discussing the evolution of prefab homes as an affordable green alternative.  The magazine has an interview with the architecture team of Jeff Sommers and Kate Votava, of Square Root Architecture, and their plan to replicate prefab homes across Chicagoland. Download the full article.

Another Chicago project was recently in the news, filmed by the ABC (Channel 7) News team. Tom McGrath’s Elemental Building is a gut-rehab project transformed into a high-end LEED Platinum home right in the heart of Bucktown. The project’s first move was to build a solar garage that could provide power for the construction team, and has some innovative reuse of materials.  Watch the video.

Have a newsworthy project you’re working on?  Be sure you’re on our Project List page and send us information.