It may be big but did you see the energy bills?

This home was cons015tructed with environmentally friendly materials and products.  The goal was to build a home that didn’t have a negative impact on the environment and would contribute to the home’s overall efficiency.

The result is beautiful home outfitted with natural bamboo hardwood floors, geothermal heating and cooling, superior insulation and Anderson Triple Pane Windows.   The house’s construction, due to its part being pre-fabricated offsite, diverted almost all waste from landfills.

The home  has greatly reduced utilities due to its design, costing $150 a  month or $1,700 a year due to temperature moderation, Energy Star certified ceiling fans in all rooms, water conserving (Water Sense) faucets,  and low flow 1.28GP toilets.

This home utilizes geothermal heating and cooling, which brings up 55 degree air from the earth’s crust, to effectively moderate the home’s temperature.  The house also has Structure insulated panels (SIP) installed for throughout the entire house, reducing the amount of onsite wastes and greatly increasing insulation.  The Kitchen, Foyer, and Great Room,  all have insulation with an R-value of 40, while all other rooms are at R24.  The attic, garage, and roof have an insulation of R40, but utilize spray foam insulation.

The Superior Wall Foundation was precast in Michigan with moisture resistant 5,000 psi concrete and placed on crushed stone footing to redirect water away from the foundation.  The foundation itself also includes R17 insulation to further reduce air leakage in the home.

Due the concrete foundation and sealing of cracks and joints in the foundation, the house has good protection against pests like termites.  The house also has a significantly reduced air leakage envelope, which is rated at 5.0 air changes per hour at 50 pascals (5.0 ACH50)   All ducts were installed in conditioned space, so there is no leakages withing duct work. The lawn consists of “No Mow Grass”  which does not require   fertilizer, mowing, or watering in its maintenance.

Projec2104 Greenviewt Details
Type                              Single Family
Conditioned Space     7,160 sq ft
Bedrooms                     6
Bathrooms                   4
Lot Type                       Infill
Construction Type    New

Key To Success
Air Filtration                     MERV 10
Roof Insulation Value      R40
Insulation                           SIP Channels: R24
HVAC                                  Geothermal
Reduced Envelope Leakage of 5.0 ACH50
Natural Bamboo Flooring

0010644179 Certificate

Greenview Project Profile

Photos courtesy of Ihab Riad, Green Park Construction, LLC.

NW Exterior View - Northbrook LEED

Northbrook IL to get first LEED Platinum home

NW Exterior View - Northbrook LEED

City incentive to bring 40% permit fee rebate
Preliminary Platinum LEED Rating
HERS Rating 40 (without PV)
Built to exceed Energy Star standards
21st Century Craftsman

“When we first started thinking about building our own home we knew we

wanted one that would be energy efficient, healthy and representative of our family. We appreciate the style and local history of Craftsman architecture, but also wanted modern touches like an open-concept floor plan, in‐home technology and environmentally friendly building techniques and products,” said future owners Aaron and Jenny Stash.

Enter Architect Michael Kollman and his company SmartHaus who will begin construction on the home in Northbrook this spring.  The custom, high-performance home is being designed and built to a LEED for Homes Platinum rating,

the highest rating given to homes when certified by the US Green Building Council. LEED homes are built to be energy efficient and environmentally responsible and are rated for health, comfort and durability by a rigorous third party review process.

SW Exterior View - Northbrook LEED

Why LEED for Homes?

“Why not?  The long term benefits of building an energy efficient, healthy home far outweigh the incremental upfront costs. Studies suggest the initial construction cost of a home represents only 11% of a building’s total cost of ownership. Beyond financials, the benefits to our family and our community are immense. If that weren’t enough, the Village of Northbrook’s forward-thinking  Green Building Initiative ordinance made the decision even easier.”

Homes that are LEED-certified measure a home’s performance based on eight categories: site selection, water efficiency, materials & resources, energy & atmosphere, indoor environmental quality, location & linkages, awareness & education, and innovation. A home that achieves LEED certification has been designed to maximize fresh air indoors, minimizing exposure to airborne toxins and pollutants, and in our case uses 45% less energy– than a home built to the International Energy Code Council’s (IECC) 2012 code in Illinois.

Economic, Social and Environmental Benefits

Less energy use means lower utility bills every month throughout the life of the house. Beyond energy efficiency, achieving LEED certification is a mark of leadership in green homebuilding, clearly differentiating a home as among the best in the country. LEED is like the nutrition label that demonstrates in measurable terms how a home incorporates efficient features, healthy indoor air quality and environmentally friendly construction practices with the added assurance that the final product has been third party-verified and performance tested.

“This is our future. The jump in technology and science over the last few years has been incredible.  We can accurately predict how a home will heat and cool and maintain healthy indoor environments utilizing very simple concepts and applications.  Homes can be fine tuned to take advantage of site features, owner’s preferences and budget. We can design and build homes today that can produce as much energy as they need to operate.  That goes for deep energy retrofits on existing homes as well.  There are financial incentives in place to help defray some of the costs of emerging technologies as well.”  Architect Michael Kollman says.

The house has been laid out to take maximum advantage of both passive and active solar energy, natural ventilation, low impact and recyclable materials, high efficiency lighting and controls, in a structure that is very simple and economical to build. “Every material and system has been studied in terms of its environmental impact and life cycle costs.”

The envelope of the house is designed to require a minimum amount of energy in order to live and use the home based on the lifestyle of the occupants.

The home will have an innovative HVAC system that has been recently developed by engineers from the University of Illinois which uses considerably less energy than a conventional heating and cooling system and provides extremely high indoor air quality utilizing a CERV (conditioned energy recovery ventilation system) combined with a cost effective installation.

The home has been reviewed by and has been given a preliminary Platinum rating, if you are interested in learning more about the SmartHaus, check it out at

Green Building Education

Green Building Winter Trainings throughout the Midwest

As part of the Alliance’s mission to educate the builders, architects, developers and the public at larger on the latest in Green Building, we are offering several courses around the Midwest and online this year.  Studying for your Green Associates? LEED AP Home?




Date/Time* Event Title / Location CEUs
Tue, Feb 12, 2013
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
An Introduction to the Living Building Challenge – Lunch Time Webinar – Free

Thu, Feb 14, 2013
2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Subslab ventilation systems for moisture control

Tue, Feb 19, 2013
9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
HOMES 401: Green Rater Training
Priority Energy – Training Center
Park Ridge IL
Wed, Feb 27, 2013
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
A Homeowner’s Tale, Passive House & LEED Home Case Study – Free Webinar 

1 GBCI / 1 AIA
Thu, Feb 28, 2013
2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Implementation of successful daylighting control systems

Wed, Mar 6, 2013
7:00 AM – 3:45 PM
Better Buildings: Better Business Conference
Kalahari Conference Center
Wisconsin Dells, WI 
Wed, Mar 6, 2013
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Living Building Seminar Pre Conference Networking Event
Ann Arbor 
Thu, Mar 7, 2013
9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Understanding the Living Building Challenge 6 Hour Seminar 
Guardian Club Banquet Hall
Detroit Michigan 
Mon, Mar 11, 2013
9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
LEED GA: Core Concepts & Strategies – Naperville
Electric Association
Naperville IL
Wed, Mar 13, 2013
9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
HOMES 252: Understanding LEED for Homes – Wilmette
Wilmette, IL 
Tue, Mar 19, 2013
12:00 AM – 12:00 AM
eQUEST energy modeling series
NIU Outreach Center at Naperville
Naperville IL
Tue, Apr 9, 2013
12:00 AM – 12:00 AM
eQUEST energy modeling series
Radisson Paper Valley Hotel
Appleton Wisconsin
Wed, Apr 10, 2013
9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Understanding the Living Building Challenge 6 Hour Seminar 
Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation (WECC)
Madison Wisconsin
Wed, Apr 17, 2013
9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Understanding the Living Building Challenge 6 Hour Seminar 
Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation (WECC)
Madison Wisconsin

*All times are US Eastern time (EST)

Group rates available on workshops! Contact for details.
All programs approved for AIA and GBCI credit. Other CEU programs may also apply.


As a 501(c)3 charitable organization (view our details), we deliver green building education courses through out the Midwest usually at cost. Please support us to help keep these going. Your donation to the Green Home Institute may be tax-deductible. Please check with your accountant or tax attorney for details.

Thank you for your support!


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




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


Chicago North Shore Home Earns LEED Platinum

Glencoe, IL LEED Platinum exteriorA Glencoe, IL home has just been awarded a Platinum rating by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED for Homes program, the highest level possible. The house is only the second new-construction LEED Platinum home in the State of Illinois and the first LEED Platinum home on the North Shore. View the LEED Project Snapshot

The Washington Avenue home was designed by Nathan Kipnis, AIA of Kipnis Architecture + Planning of Evanston and built by Scott Simpson Builders of Northbrook. Owners Barry and Natalie Slotnick moved into the house in April of 2011 with their two young children.
Glencoe, IL LEED Platinum rooflineThis home is unique in its commitment to staying within the aesthetic of the surrounding community while implementing a wide range of green goals. It’s one of the few LEED homes to take a non-modernist approach to its exterior, as well as being informed by traditional low-impact building philosophies. The home is classic in its style, form and proportions, yet modern in its use of materials, colors and systems. Green features include passive, natural ventilation; passive solar heating and cooling; water-efficient indoor plumbing fixtures including a waterless urinal; low and no-VOC finishes and fixtures; standing seam metal roofing; cement fiberboard siding; and prefabricated framing.

Architect Kipnis states, “The house was built for 40% of the cost of the first LEED Platinum home in Illinois and in a style that appeals to a much wider cross section of the public. While these homes can be thought of as pioneering efforts, if the goal is to engage the public then the design should be contextual to neighborhood and not be aesthetically shocking.  The Slotnick’s home is a perfect example of this.”

Glencoe, IL LEED Platinum interior

LEED for Homes is a voluntary, third-party certification program developed by residential experts and experienced builders. LEED promotes the design and construction of high performance green homes, and encourages the adoption of sustainable practices throughout the building industry.

Download the LEED Project Snapshot

Barry Slotnick – 847-875-4920;
Nathan Kipnis – 847-864-9650;

Guylas Residence LEED for Homes Platinum Certified

Free Green Building Educational Offering from

Fall is an exciting time for and high-performance homes.  We will be offering several free LEED for Homes introductory classes that will introduce homeowners, builders, architects, developers, contractors and all interested in learning more about healthy, efficient, durable and affordable construction practices. Perfect for those who are looking to obtain their Green Associates or LEED AP Homes credential!

HOMES 252 – Full Day LEED for Homes Workshop

October 28, 2011 – Indianapolis, IN
Early bird pricing ends soon: Wed 10/19
November, 7th – Detroit, MI
Early bird pricing ends: Mon 10/31
November 11, 2011 – Chicago, IL
Early bird pricing ends: Tue 11/1

LEED 205 – Demystifying LEED for Homes. Free!

East Lansing – Oct 10th

Detroit – Oct 12th

Ann Arbor – Oct 19th

Flint – Oct 27th 

Kalamazoo – Nov 4th – Details TBA

In this 2-hour class, the LEED for Homes rating system will be explained, and then applied to case studies relevant to the local market. Common myths regarding level of documentation, cost, and credit requirements will be dispelled. The session will be followed by a catered networking lunch for attendees.


More details on the class(es) can be found here

USGBC Workshop:  Homes 252 Understanding the LEED for Homes Rating System

November, 7th, Monday 8:30 am – 5 PM. 

 71 Garfield LLC
71 Garfield
Detroit, MI 48210

Lunch will be provided

Faculty: Taught by USGBC-trained faculty with real-world expertise and LEED project knowledge to share.
Sign up today!

Can’t Make Detroit? This full-day workshop will also be offered in Chicago  and Indianapolis.

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