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Architect: Farr Associates Architects, Chicago
Builder: Goldberg General Contracting, Chicago
Landscape Architect: Christy Webber Landscapes, Chicago
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October 07, 2009
By Nigel F. Maynard

Yannell House, Chicago

Goldberg General Contracting (GGC) is known for its ability to translate unorthodox ideas into beautiful, livable houses, having built the personal residences of several noted Chicago architects. In this case, the builder was asked to pursue its first green project.

GGC is also known for not doing anything halfway, so it’s not surprising that the home, designed by architect Doug Farr, achieved net-zero energy status, as well as LEED-Platinum certification.

Sited on an infill lot that previously held a two-unit rental, the house consists of two volumes—a single-story section containing a main living room with a garage below grade; and a two-story form housing private spaces—with an entry foyer connecting the two wings. Farr Associates oriented the house to capture daylight and used the home’s butterfly roof to provide just the right angle for the 10-kilowatt solar heating and cooling system and for water collection. The roof shape hides the solar panels from the street.

To achieve Platinum status, the project team had to adhere to strict construction processes. They deconstructed the existing building and recycled as much as possible, reusing oak floors in the new house. In addition to photovoltaics, they integrated resource-conserving systems such as solar hot water, geothermal heating and cooling, and graywater recycling.

Though the house hits high sustainable notes, it still manages to do it in a beautiful way, incorporating sleek, modern design touches and innovative materials, such as Forest Stewardship Council–certified cedar, Italian fiber-cement board, recycled walnut flooring, cement block, and a green roof.
It’s an experience that convinced GGC that green building is the way to go, says project manager Jeff Berry. “Stepping outside the box was great, and we loved the freshness and the challenge.” Going forward, Berry says, the firm hopes to build more houses in this way.