A Model Healthy Home For A Growing Chicago Family

Pam and Jan were a couple on a mission. In seeking a home in Chicago in which to raise their young daughter — and second child on the way — they took a look at over 140 houses and condos in the downtown area. But not one of them met the health standards the couple had adopted, as per the healthy living guidelines for kids promoted by the non-profit organization Healthy Child Healthy World.

These guidelines are surprisingly commonsense, considering how difficult they were to meet. Healthy Child Healthy World advises parents to make sure their homes are built out of long-lasting materials, and are energy efficient, secure, and require little in the way of maintenance and repairs, among other things. In home after home, Pam and Jan told Inhabitat that it was common to see dust collecting areas above kitchen cabinets, dirt trapped in carpeting, and low windows with casement openings that could endanger children if opened too much — and that also constricted air flow if they weren’t opened enough.

Healthy Home Chicago 2012

image via Inhabitat

So the couple turned to Bloomfield Development Company, who partnered with experts from Healthy Child Healthy World, GreenGuard, and Dwell Magazine to build a new home from the ground up. That all-star green team embraced the challenge of not only making this home perfect for this growing family, but a place that would showcase the very best in sustainable design, innovative technologies, green building materials, and healthy living.

Architect Joe Trojanowski brought some additional goals to the table: to create a beautiful home with a modern look, but also a place that felt warm (rather than too-tidy, or minimalist). Trojanowski, working in collaboration with Susan Fredman Design Group, designed the home around high ceilings and an open floor plan. The entire first floor is illuminated via natural daylighting, and an open staircase creates a strong focal point upon entrance.

Healthy Home Chicago 2

image via Inhabitat

The team worked hard to find building materials that met the couple’s high standards, corresponding directly with manufacturers to determine materials that would be the best fit. They also took care to design in such a way as to minimize the number of surfaces where dust, mold, and other toxins might build up.

For instance, the master bath makes use of tile, FSC certified Teragren bamboo flooring, and the recycled cork flooring found throughout the house — not just because these materials are green, but because they require little in terms of low maintenance. This makes the home easier to keep clean, as do the flat surfaces in the kitchen (filled with Energy Star certified appliances, of course). By minimizing the places where dirt and toxins can hide, the home maintains a healthier indoor environment.

The building is clad in dark brick and large-scale, cast-stone panels, and beneath that, you’ll find a whole lot high-performance insulation. This insulation exceeds the standards set by the City of Chicago Green Homes Program Guidelines, and encloses the home in a continuous layer (e.g., even under the basement slab), which helps to reduce the heating demands in the house.

That heating is handled by an HVAC system rated at 98 percent efficient, meaning that a bare minimum of energy is lost to the outside air. In keeping with that conservative theme on the energy front, the home’s windows consist of thermally broken aluminum frames, which prevent the direct transfer of heat through the window frame (thermal bridging). These windows make use of 1” thick insulated glass, with a special reflective coating that provides privacy during the day while further reducing heat transfer. The home is solar-ready, in anticipation of a photovoltaic system to be installed at a later date.

This home is the second in the Chicago area to be built in partnership with Healthy Child Healthy World.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

    • Judith Wright Twitchell

      It’s a beautiful house, and all the green efforts are commendable, but in an area that has blustering cold winters, all that open space and high ceiling creates a heating nightmare, extremely inefficient heating potential and energy costs. Smaller rooms, no overly high ceilings are far more practical. Sliding or otherwise moveable interior doors can create a large room for special occasions that call for it (and which will probably have the benefit of body heat from large parties?). :-)

      • therufs

        Smaller rooms and lower ceilings are probably cheaper to build efficiently, sure, but if you’re willing to pay more up front to execute a design that’s both attractive /and/ energy-efficient, I see no reason to rain on the parade.