When developer Tom McGrath left the healthcare industry to “follow his bliss,” he had one goal: He wanted to build quality homes in Chicago while leaving as small an environmental footprint as possible.
That’s just what developer McGrath is doing with a building renovation in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood.
McGrath’s goal is that the project, located at 1610 N. Honore St., becomes the first speculative-built Chicago home to earn LEED Platinum status from the U.S. Green Building Council.
“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’s project has already received attention from the building press for its unique garage, labeled as the “Greenest Garage in Chicago”. It features a 7.6-kilowatt photovoltaic solar panel that acts as a shade-providing canopy. Thanks to this solar feature, the garage produces 800 percent more energy than it consumes.
If that’s not enough, the garage is also outfitted with more efficient LED and CFL lighting, and features a flyash concrete floor. Native blue oat grass and ruby star purple cornflowers sprout from the garage’s southern side.
“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.”
The green garage is just one of the many environmental features that 1610 N. Honore will boast once work is complete. Approximately 200 people visited the garage during the recent National Solar Tour.
Contractors began the dry-wall process in late September, and were expected to complete the remodeling project no more than 60 days later.
Workers are busy converting the 1890s one-story-with-basement two-flat into a single-family home. When doing this, construction crews will reuse as much of the existing structure as possible. They will also rely heavily on recycled material. Crews are using such environmentally friendly materials as FSC lumber and low-VOC paints.
Prudential Rubloff agents Bill Kaye and Cathy Arslanian are listing the home, which has an initial asking price of $2.49 million.
Gerhard Zinserling is the project’s architect, while Act Construction is serving as the general contractor.
McGrath has shown his commitment to green building by making sure that construction crews installed the garage’s solar canopy early in the project’s timeline. This is a departure from the norm, in which crews usually install solar panels as one of the last pieces of a job.
But by installing the panels early in the process, construction crews have been able to use the solar power they generate while renovating the two-flat.
“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 panels are a key component of 1610 N. Honore’s efforts to capture the prized Platinum designation from the U.S. Green Building Council. The 7.6-kilowatt solar array should cover all of the home’s electricity needs, McGrath said. This is possible because the home will be outfitted with high-efficiency appliances and lighting that reduce the amount of electricity needed to power the house by about 25 percent.
In addition to solar electric, six solar-thermal panels will provide hot water for the radiant heating system, as well as domestic hot water used in showers and faucets. The Solar thermal panels should cover 60 percent of the annual hot water heating demands of the home, too.
Other green features include a 1,200-gallon rainwater cistern that will greatly reduce the amount of water that the home consumes and super-insulated windows and walls. The windows, in fact, will boast an insulation rating of R9, rarely seen in the residential building industry. The window manufacturer, Serious Materials, also won the contract to replace all 6,500 windows in the Empire State Building in New York City.
The garden which will be located between the house and the garage will function as an urban oasis- complete with an outdoor shower for summertime use.
But green isn’t the only selling point here. The three-level home, which will comprise four bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, two large balconies and an outdoor kitchen, will include several luxuries, too.
McGrath has insisted on working with high-end finishes from manufacturers such as Sub Zero, Wolf, Gaggenau, Kohler and Arclinea. The home comes with its own built-in stereo system, and will be pre-wired for home theater in the family and living rooms.
Floor-to-ceiling windows will bathe the home’s interiors in natural light, while radiant heating and cooling will maintain the residence’s comfort level throughout the year. A large two-car garage will eliminate the hassles of parking in the busy Bucktown neighborhood.
The owners of this green home will also enjoy an island kitchen with Sub Zero refrigerator, Wolf cook top, Gaggenau double ovens, wine cooler, bar fridge, ice maker and additional prep sink. The large garage deck, bathed in shade from the solar array, features its own kitchen equipped with gas, electric, running water, Wolf grill, Sub Zero refrigerator and ice maker.
The home’s family room also features its own wet bar with refrigerator, ice maker and microwave.
The master suite is another selling point: It comes with a spa bath and private balcony. The third-level living room boasts a wood-burning fireplace.
“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.”
“It truly is a house, built by the sun, powered by the sun, and celebrated by the sun,” says McGrath.