Chicago’s ‘most sustainable home’ just one of city’s green initiatives

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CHICAGO -- From expanded bike lanes to garden rooftops, Chicago is trying to lead the way in reducing its carbon footprint.

Be Green, be sustainable, eco-friendly projects are popping up everywhere.

Here are just a few:

House on George Street

At the end of George Street in Roscoe Village you’ll find a house that looks a good little different and it’s called “the most sustainable home ever built in Chicago” by its developer Ryan Kolar.

The five bedroom, 4,700 square foot house has an outside made of recycled brick and wood from a 100-year-old barn.

Inside, there are the repurposed steel stairs to and doors made of old mahogany floors.

There’s a system that recycles shower and faucet water to be used in the toilets. Strategically placed windows and a skylight help reduce a home’s biggest energy eater.

“Heating and cooling should literally be an eighth of what people are currently paying for a house this size,” Kolar said.

Kolar’s green home in on the market for one and a half million dollars. He’s gotten a lot of interest and is waiting for a sale.

Kolar calls his house a prototype. He hopes to move on to more moderately priced sustainable homes once this one sells.

RetroFit Chicago

Chief Sustainability Officer Chris Wheat explains that Retrofit Chicago is a voluntary  program that partners building and home owners with environmental consultants in finding ways to cut out that carbon footprint.

“Buildings like the Rookery has reduced energy by 20 percent through things like improving their lighting, improving their heating and cooling,” he said.

Lighting costs for the Rookery’s iconic lobby dropped more than 90 percent by switching from incandescent  to LED light bulbs. Seventy-nine buildings have joined Retrofit Chicago including the the Architectural Foundation high-rise on Michigan Avenue and the Institute of Cultural Affairs in Uptown.

Solar Power Initiatives

The effort to go green reaches all ages. A team of 50 Northwestern University students created a home to compete in what’s called the Solar Decathlon, a U.S. Department of Energy competition where student led teams design and build solar-powered houses.

The international competition in Denver last month focused on ten different categories. Northwestern took first place in two, communications and marketability. They also won the unofficial Kid’s Choice award for the “coolest house.”

Tips for a greener home:

You don’t have to buy a new house to be sustainable. Here are some ideas from our experts on how to green your home ranging from  simple costs to long term investments:

  • Swap your lightbulbs to LED bulbs.
  • Buy Programmable thermostats to save on heating and cooling.
  • Get a rain barrel. Most communities provide them at cost or free.
  • Replace 10-to-15 year old appliances with energy star or WaterSence appliances.
  • Buy Solar panels. In the long run, you’ll watch your energy costs disappear.

For more information visit the following websites:
Ryan Kolar:
Retrofit Chicago:
Northwestern University Solar House:

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