A few months ago I wrote about a Net Zero energy home in Ravenswood.   Recently as I was driving thru West Andersonville, I noticed an older home being rebuilt with a sign that said Sustainable.   My curiosity got the best of me and I called the architect for a tour of the home.

I just met with Alphonso Paluso, architect with the Design Build firm of Vertex Architects, located in Chicago.     He is full-time faculty at Illinois Institute of Technology.  He is an adjunct professor at Columbia College.   Alphonso grew up in the business, being the son of a home builder, and has been an architect for 13 years.   You can connect with Vertex at Twitter.

We toured the home, which I learned is a redesign/rebuild of Andersonville’s oldest house that is now becoming sustainable.     The Andersonville home is more than 100 years old.   It’s being retrofitted, rebuilt with energy conservation, reusing existing materials, incorporating smart space planning and energy conscious design. It is LEED certified, and qualified for the City of Chicago’s Green Homes program, that streamlined the permit process taking just 5 days.

What Challenges Face the Architect?

Affordability is the biggest challenge.   To redesign and rebuild the house for under $115 per square foot is very low when compared with the $600 per square foot for zero net energy homes built in the neighborhood.  The main element is reusing between 80-90% of the materials.

Another challenge is reusing as much of the original building material in the house as possible. This requires a much more involved building process.   You have to take it step by step. Rather than going in with a crew and demolishing everything and putting it in a dumpster as is typically done, the house is carefully dismantled.   This project has been completely recycled except for the original lath and plaster. Even the brick from the two original chimneys were carefully dismantled and saved for use as pavers for the walkways.

What Makes This  Home Sustainable?

The home is designed for cross ventilation to reduce the need for heating/cooling with good insulation and low energy florescent lighting.   Paluso raised the roof and reused the original lumber for framing. While dismantling the property, he uncovered original joists that were stamped with the mark of Wm Schroeder and Sons Lumber at 1808 Lincoln Avenue. That lumber yard was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871.

The home’s radiant heating system is embedded in the floors, a very efficient system.   The lovely ornate antique radiators from the home were salvaged and are to be re-installed to heat the basement.  The roof will be constructed of a metal material with baked on Kynar – the same material used metal window frames and sashes.  Siding will be cedar which provides natural warmth, is durable and is environmentally friendly.

When asked, “Why should I build sustainable?” Paluso responded matter-of-factly, “Cost, energy and materials conservation, and comfort of the home. “

What is the Future of Sustainable?

There is a need to make alternative energy more available, and less expensive. For example, there is a solar material that is thin and flexible, can be rolled out on a roof with uses to generate energy for heating and cooling water.   The cost of this material is still too expensive for use.

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