Thrifty Do-It-Yourself Green Home: La Fleur Residence

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Oak Park, IL

Location
Oak Park, IL 60301

Owners
Jason and Jennifer La Fleur

By Selma Haveric

With the help of friends and family, the pair has been transforming the vintage house into a green home. Features of the La Fleur home include PowerZoning air recirculation, a tankless water heater, soy foam insulation, and an exterior rain barrel. Since the home is a partial renovation of an old house, it is ineligible for LEED® certification.  But, the couple has used case studies from the U.S. Green Building Council’s program to inspire their redecorating work. It takes a lot of hard work to restore the original character of a vintage home, says Jason, and even he admits that they may never be completely done.

By doing all of the renovations themselves, the La Fleurs save money that might otherwise be spent on a contractor; these funds can then be put toward the renovation. The pair hopes to inspire future green builders by proving the viability of building a more sustainable home on a tight budget. Even though some green components may cost a lot up front, Jason says, they will eventually save money on operating costs in the long run. As an example, he points to the soy foam insulation used in the renovated house: It’s an environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based insulation, and soy serves as both a sound barrier and a thermal seal. It’s a bit more expensive than traditional insulation, but soy foam could help lower heating bills by an additional 15 percent each year.

The La Fleurs have managed to create their green home one small step at a time, without overspending. The Oak Park residence proves that going green doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. Instead of splurging on all the latest green features, the pair selected energy-efficient options that fit their budget. They reused framing lumber and trim from the house during the renovation process and chose affordable recycled components, like countertops and reclaimed windows. They also saved money by purchasing salvaged appliances and vintage doors at demolition sales. Energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs figure into the home’s lighting matrix, helping to keep energy bills low.

PowerZoning air recirculation sends cool air from the basement to the upstairs rooms of the house, and daylighting tubes in the home save money that would be spent on electricity during daylight hours. The use of a rain barrel conserves water and provides natural water for the garden plants. All told, it’s a fine example of a prudent re-greening effort in which small choices contribute to a more sustainable bottom line. To keep up with recent developments, visit Jason’s blog.

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