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Greening the 'Burbs

The Chicago region is about to welcome its very first passive home. It's in the city, right? Wrong. It's actually popping up in River Forest as we speak. There are only 50 passive homes in the US, but what's been all the rage in Europe is slowly taking root here: another 70-100 are on the way in the next few years. Lest you think the place has to be shoebox-sized to succeed, it's actually a surprising 4,000 square feet. That makes it perfectly in scale with the neighborhood. It blends in most other ways too, seeing as the most important energy-efficient features are the triple-glazed windows, solar panels, and tiny heat pumps that remove warm air in summer months and supply it in winter. The balance of insulation and ventilation is what gives it its equilibrium. The home will cost $700K to build but passive is, on average, just 10% more costly than conventional. And they use just 25% of the energy of a conventional build. It sure is nice to have a local builder or two committed to the movement. [Crain's by subscription, graphic: Passive House Design]