New Chicago Home Could Be City’s First LEED Listing

October 17, 2010

When passion strikes, you have to follow your heart, and that’s what motivated a green local developer to switch careers and embark on a Chicago new home project.

Tom McGrath left the healthcare industry with the goal of building quality homes in Chicago that leave a small environmental footprint. He is currently renovating a building in the Bucktown neighborhood that he hopes will become the first LEED Certified Platinum home for sale in Chicago.

Green House

The proposed green home at 1610 N. Honore St. in Chicago.

“I’m a new developer, and I know I chose the worst time to enter the real estate market, but this has long been a goal for me,” McGrath said. “I believe that people are willing to pay for quality. I believe, too, that green building and sustainability is the new niche market in real estate.”

McGrath is converting the 1890s two-flat at 1610 N. Honore Street into a single-family home. Workers will use as much of the existing structure as possible as well as recycled and environmentally friendly materials to complete the project.

The home has already received attention for what has been called the “Greenest Garage in Chicago,” which features LED and CFL lighting, a water-resistant aluminum door and a sustainable flyash concrete floor. A 7.6-kilowatt photovoltaic solar panel that acts as a shade-providing canopy allows the garage to produce 800 percent more energy than it consumes.

Green House Solar Canopy

The green house's solar canopy.

Usually, solar panels are installed toward the end of a construction job, but McGrath had the solar canopy installed early in the project so crews could use the solar power they generate during the renovation of the rest of the building.

“We did the rehab and rebuilding work with the power of the sun,” McGrath said. “We have been conserving energy even as we build.”

The solar panel should cover all the home’s electricity needs, and an additional six solar-thermal panels should cover 60 percent of the annual hot water heating needs as well.

Other green features include:

*Highly insulated walls

*A 1,200-gallon rainwater cistern that will reduce the amount of water needed in the home

Green House windows

Floor-to-ceiling windows offer tons of natural light.

*High-efficiency, high-end appliances and lighting

*Super-insulated windows rarely used in residential building that are placed floor to ceiling to provide natural light

“I think there’s an unmet demand for this kind of product,” McGrath said. “Just like there was once an unmet demand for organic food and hybrid electrical cars, a need that was filled by Whole Foods and Toyota. There is no one out there building this kind of home. But I think there is a lot of demand out there for something built with this kind of care and sensitivity to the environment.”

The three-level home will have luxurious features, too, including:

*Four bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms

*Two large balconies

*A built-in stereo system and pre-wiring for a home theater in the family and living rooms

*Radiant heating and cooling

*A large garage deck under the solar array with an outdoor kitchen

*A third-level living room with a wood-burning fireplace

*A family room that boasts a wet bar with refrigerator, ice maker and microwave

*A master suite with a spa bath and private balcony

*A garden with an outdoor shower located between home and the large, two-car garage

The home is currently listed at $2,499,000 and is being sold by Prudential Rubloff agents Bill Kaye and Cathy Arslanian.

Gerhard Zinserling is the architect and Act Construction is the general contractor.

Workers are hoping to finish the renovation by the end of November.

“Most developers when building a speculation home, focus on building it fast. They want to build it cheap, and are reluctant to build something truly exceptional,” McGrath said. “I went a different route here: I made my decisions with this building based on what I felt was the right thing to do and built to the highest standards of quality and sustainability.

“It truly is a house built by the sun, powered by the sun and celebrated by the sun.”

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