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Highlights of the GreenBuilt Home Tour

Over the weekend, we checked out a handful of the eco-chic houses on the inaugural GreenBuilt Home Tour, an area-wide event put on by the US Green Building Council Illinois chapter, Tribune Co., Passive House Alliance, and the Alliance for Environmental Sustainability showcasing green technology and ideas at work. The featured residences, as USGBC Illinois' Jason La Fleur told us last week, boasted an impressive array of sustainable systems and details, but what was perhaps more impressive was how non-hovercrafts-and-robot-butlers futuristic the high-tech touches seemed – in fact, they felt right at home. Some highlights:

? Aside from its statement-making central staircase and carefully planned eco-conscious layout, what was most interesting about this handsome Wicker Park new construction were the economic constraints the homeowner was determined to abide by in order to make his process replicable. Choices and compromises in terms of finishes, materials, and appliances meant the LEED for Homes Gold property could achieve a 41 Home Energy Rating System score (60 percent more energy efficient than a standard new home and 90 percent more efficient than the average resale home) while still staying within the typical cost per square foot for similar homes in the area.

Other details of note? Materials were sourced locally as much as possible to cut down on transport costs and environmental impacts, rooms were configured in non-traditional shapes to create a smaller overall footprint, direct-roof-mounted solar panels use a nifty software system to track their input, LED lighting can be found throughout the house, and perhaps our favorite touch, though not particularly green – a planned dumbwaiter designed to pulley bottles of wine to a secondary rooftop area currently underway.
·1735 W Potomac Avenue

? This Irving Park home is still under construction so it didn't offer the same sparkle as the tour's other stops, but taking a lap around the bones of the structure, fashioned with lots of handy signs describing the various environmentally-conscious choices that were being made in its design (super airtight doorways, solar panel-ready capabilities) offered a behind-the-scenes perspective the other places didn't. The 3,337 square foot house will be Greenline Homes' first LEED registered home on the city's north side and construction is set to be completed by late summer/fall of this year.
·3727 N Francisco Avenue

? When we visited Chicagoland's first certified passive house, it had attracted by far the biggest crowd of the places we'd seen (as well as the most formal presentation), and with good reason. The trailblazing home is only the 28th certified passive house in the country, the second Department of Energy Challenge Home in Illinois, and counts a building envelope designed to minimize losses and maximize passive gains and third-party certified materials all cleared for their indoor air quality among its selling points. The house, which felt decidedly less modern in aesthetic than its tourmates, has also already nabbed the 2013 USGBC Emerald Award for Home Innovation and will serve as a case study for the new Healthy Home Initiative certification program. Snazzy stuff.

Unlike the other homes we saw, the tour here included back story from the home's builder, architect, and interior designer which gave a nice rounded idea of the work that goes into creating a property like this. The interior designer, for instance, talked about finding furniture at warehouses and consignment shops that has been "off-gassed" aka the harmful chemicals most new stuff is coated in had had time to wear away. Who knew?
·1430 Jackson Avenue, River Forest

? A green roof that manages storm water in addition to offering up some sweet city views was just one innovative element at this Palmer Square property. Others included insulated concrete form construction, a rainscreen system made of recycled materials, and geothermal heating and cooling mechanisms. With kids' art projects tacked to walls alongside low VOC paints and high efficiency appliances, this home felt livable – a promising quality as these kinds of dwellings continue to enter the mainstream.
·2931 W Lyndale Street
·GreenBuilt Home Tour [official]
·Three Questions for Jason La Fleur of the U.S. Green Building Council [Curbed Chicago]

—Gwendolyn Purdom