Tuesday, September 17, 2013

High Performance Home Construction

Last July, my wife Bonnie and I enjoyed visiting several homes meeting LEED standards that were part of Chicagoland’s 2013 GreenBuilt Home Tour.  LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is a rating system designed to assure that buildings are properly certified for a given level of performance.  LEED is normally associated with high-end commercial buildings, but the concept has now been extended to residences. The process can be difficult, but homes that meet LEED standards are more comfortable, less expensive to operate, have a reduced risk of indoor toxic chemical exposures, and of course, promise a lower carbon footprint.  This is explained further in the website, LEED for Homes Illinois.

According to Jason Lefleur of the Alliance for Environmental Sustainability, "We had a great summer weekend to enjoy the inaugural GreenBuilt Home Tour which took place July 20-21.  With 16 participating homes, 400+ attendees, and over 1,500 site visits, our first year was a success.”  To view these lovely homes, GreenBuilt Tour.

OK, back to the tour.  The homes we visited were in pleasant suburban neighborhoods west of Chicago.  What we noticed in each home were various custom design features and floor plans.  These were not designs from a designer’s catalog. The homeowners were present, and seemed quite proud of how they integrated features that addressed their particular needs.  Many had a detailed knowledge of how the advanced features of their homes worked.  That included building envelope and window construction, bamboo flooring, geothermal furnaces, and advanced heat recovery ventilation systems.  Yes, we were talking to some serious eco-geeks, but the homes were both beautiful and functional, and they looked much like conventional homes from the street.  Interestingly, there were no solar panels.  Just high performance homes that made our home seem primitive by comparison. 

Although as a society we seem to nibble at the edges of our problems, this represents our future.  If LEED looks a bit expensive for you, be aware that in Illinois all new construction must meet the new international energy conservation standards for building construction, as described at the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity web site, ILDCEO.

With a growing interest in high performance homes, and a statewide mandate, expect in the future some rather substantial reductions in energy use that will make our communities more resilient to future price swings for natural gas and electricity.  As one local architect put it, this is a “game changer.”

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Eco Friendly Homes

From time to time you will see guest posts on this blog.  Varied opinions and perspectives are valuable. With this in mind, we have Kendala Coleman of Redfin discussing eco-friendly living and home buying opportunities from a realtor's perspective.  Be aware that homes can be "green" in different ways, and  to varying degrees.  Soon, I will summarize a few homes that were featured on the Chicago area's first Green Built Home Tour which highlighted cutting edge custom-designed homes that meet LEED standards.  LEED may not be for everyone, so it is useful to know that realtors can help steer you toward other homes with the eco-features you are seeking.

- Jeff Gahris

Going Green in Glen Ellyn
By Kendala Coleman

According to Energy.gov, the typical U.S. family spends at least $2,000 a year on home utility bills. By taking measures to increase energy efficiency and reduce water waste, homeowners can reduce these costs significantly and shrink their environmental footprint at the same time. Here are Redfin’s top budget-friendly home updates that you can make to help save money and make your home more energy efficient:

1.       Seal gaps on doors and windows with caulking and weather-stripping to save energy.

2.       Maintain your sprinkler system so you don’t waste water with leaky spigots.

3.       Make sure your attic is properly insulated to stabilize the climate in your house.

4.       Install low-flow sinks, showers and toilets to save water.

This list was compiled by Julie Jacobson, a Redfin Agent who is certified as a LEED Green Associate. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the most widely used green building program worldwide.
“All of the incentives out there can really help homeowners with the initial costs associated with making their home more green. And over time, with all of the savings on monthly bills, the upgrades can quickly pay for themselves,” said Jacobson.

To help homeowners pay for these upgrades, there are a variety of city, county, state and utility rebates, as well as some federal and state tax credits and loan options available. More information on various incentives available in each state can be found in the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, or DSIRE. Make sure to look into these programs before making upgrades to your home. This can really help increase your ROI.

What to consider when buying a home

When looking for a new home, keep in mind that houses with green certifications such as GreenPoint, EarthCraft, ENERGY STAR®, or LEED have the potential to use 20-30 percent less energy and water than homes built using conventional standards. If a home doesn’t have these certifications, it doesn’t mean it isn’t saving energy and money in ways that you can’t see. When touring a home, ask about the age of the windows, hot water heater, insulation and ventilation system. Having new heating and cooling systems often means more energy-efficient heating and cooling and more money in the bank.

Eco-friendly homes in DuPage County
Check out these popular DuPage County homes for sale with energy-efficient features:
3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths
Eco Features: passive solar home, furnace replaced in 2010
Listed by: Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Downers Grove, IL
813 Old Orchard Avenue
3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths
Eco Features: energy-efficient HVAC, Solar Tubes, whole house fan
Listed by: Coldwell Banker Residential
Wheaton, IL
416 N Main Street
5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms
Eco Features: Energy independent generator, two HVAC systems
Listed by: Prudential Rubloff

Check out other featured homes in the Redfin Collection Eco-friendly Homes in DuPage County and find more energy-efficient homes in DuPage County at Redfin.com.

If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home soon and have any questions on this information, I’m happy to help. You can read my recent reviews from clients and view my contact information on Redfin.com.