Energy Star Rated Two-Story: Urban House 1, Illinois Institute of Technology – College of Architecture

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

448 E. 44th St., Chicago Map

Genesis Housing Development Corporation

DBStudio – IIT College of Architecture

448 E. 44th St.

448 E. 44th St.

Urban House 1 is a two-story, 1800 sf, three bedroom wood-frame house being built through a new design/build course at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Led by professors Eva Kultermann and Thomas Gentry, students tackle sustainable design, healthy construction, social responsiveness and design excellence simultaneously – a typically ambitious student assignment! This is one of a pair of projects being built side-by-side on 44th Street (on land purchased from the city) that are perhaps the most exotic green homes underway in the city, primarily because of their aggressive passive and active solar design.

The unusual site configuration partly allows solar to work here. Unlike a typical narrow city lot, the lot is wide with the long end facing south, parallel to 44th. Hence the house is also turned with the long axis running parallel to the street, allowing the long southern elevation to soak up solar rays. In some ways this configuration is similar to a typical suburban lot – the design would require significant adaptation to work on a standard 25′ x 125′ lot.

A central atrium acts as a solar chimney to induce natural ventilation. Besides the Factor 10 House, I am familiar with very few new homes in Chicago designed around this principle. In the winter, the active solar system collects hot air from the top of the atrium and ducts it to a rock bin beneath the floor slab, where the rocks store the heat for release at night . A rammed earth wall on the first floor provides additional thermal storage. A highly insulated building is necessary for solar design to be effective – otherwise the solar heat gains might not be enough to heat the building. Insulation on this project includes insulated concrete form foundations, blown-in cellulose wall insulation, and a layer of rigid insulation outside the framing.

This project also takes advantage of advanced framing techniques, also called Optimum Value Engineering (OVE). This approach generally begins with using 2×6 framing members spaced 24″ on center (instead of 2x4s 16″ on center) and follows with a host of other framing details that reduced materials and allow for more insulation. Because frame houses aren’t as common in dense Chicago neighborhoods, OVE doesn’t get noticed as much as in other places, but for a green home this is probably a fundamental as important as an Energy Star rating.

Finally, Urban House 1 includes many stormwater management strategies such as rain barrels, a rain garden, and porous pavers, and has all of the expected healthy and environmentally-friendly materials. Horigan Urban Forest Products donated white oak harvested from the Chicago urban forest which is being milled for use as flooring, and the students expect to work closely with Greenmaker to source many products.

The project will be constructed by IIT students with the assistance of Dawson Technical Institute and general contractor Genesis Construction Services. Once completed, tours of the home will be given for 1-3 months before it is sold. The house will be Energy Star rated with the assistance of home energy rater Informed Energy Decisions.

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