LEED Platinum Gut Rehab in Chicago

This is the Helenowski Residence, a gut-rehab in Chicago that achieved the highest LEED for Homes point total ever with 119 points, according to LEED for Homes provider Alliance for Environmental Sustainability.  The 3,300 square-foot renovation achieved an impressive HERS rating of 13 and is net-zero energy with the help of rooftop solar power and a vertical axis wind turbine.

Helenowski Residence was designed by Mariusz Bleszynski, AIA, and built by Square 1 Precision Lighting (led by owner Jacek Helenowski).  The owner put a lot of work into the renovation — more than 4 years — netting LEED Platinum certification, Energy Star, and 3 Stars in the Chicago Green Homes Program.

Keys to success, as referenced in a certification snapshot, include the geothermal HVAC system, cold-cathode lighting, recycled content drywall, reclaimed dimensional lumber (92%), and triple-paned FSC certified wood frame windows.

Instead of using typical CFLs, which contain mercury, or traditional LEDs, which contain arsenic, the cold-cathode lighting is expected to last a long time and is up to three times more efficient than LEDs.

Also, the vertical axis wind turbine is one by Canada-based Winterra, a company that closed in May 2010.  The owner helped designer a controller for the VAWT with regenerative braking similar to what’s in hybrid cars.

Other green products and materials include fly-ash cement, recycled-content tiles, CFC-free soy-based foam insulation, a vegetative green roof, a reflective white roof, rainwater collection from the roof, motorized front blinds tied to a thermostat, reclaimed copper roof, gutters, and fascia, and exterior stone reclaimed from blast fragments.

Alliance for Environmental Sustainability, a non-profit and LEED for Homes provider, tipped us off to this noteworthy green home.  It’s definitely on the short list for next year’s compilation of stunning LEED Platinum projects.

Credits: Zukas Photography.


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  • David Smith

    Obviously there is something wrong with the LEED certification process when a 3300 sf house for I am assuming 2 or 3 people receives the highest rating.

    • http://www.leedforhomesillinois.org Jlafleur

      Actually, LEED for Homes – and soon Energy Star v3 – both have a home size adjuster to specifically penalize oversized homes and reward smaller homes.

    • http://bruteforcecollaborative.wordpress.com/ bruteforcecollaborative

      you know what happens when you assume something, right david?

      it’s actually a 6 bedroom house: http://www.leedforhomesillinois.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Helenowski-Platinum.pdf

      this is my biggest beef with the SF issue that constantly comes up. it’s not illegal to build larger. it’s not significantly less ‘green’ to build larger – especially if it’s a net zero house. in the long run, less life cycle energy (both construction AND operational) than 95%+ of houses.

      of course, if they had gone for passivhaus and utilized some high SHGC glazing, they would have saved the chunk of change for geothermal, especially since they already utilized triple pane windows (pella… seriously? ugh)

  • PenelopeBall

    The main point here is that the Geothermal Heating systems put the home well over the top on energy points. Why? Because Geothermal is the only renewable that is dependable at all times to reduce peak demand, and have the lobgevity to outlast its payback. The Geothermal HVAC book from McGraw Hill has all the facts. I’ve found my renewable technology! Google “Geothermal Book”

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  • Elaine Hsieh

    Isn’t the highest rated LEED-H Platinum home renovation David Gottfried’s house in Oakland? They got 126.5 points for their 1500 s.f. bungalow. http://www.gottfriedhome.com/

    • Elaine Hsieh

      Oops. Scratch that. Just realized my last comment was inaccurate. Gottfried’s house received 106.5 pts (not 126.5). Unfortunately, LEED-H is designed for new construction and gut rehab projects and doesn’t give credit for building reuse (Gottfried’s house used most of the existing structure).

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  • Jonesy1

    They left out a key element of this whole process….exactly how much of a cost premium was required to attain this level of ‘greenness’? We all know it costs a fortune, which can NEVER be recovered through life-cycle cost analysis.
    For some reason, the greenies never want to discuss that side of the equation.

    • rj chicago

      Jonesy1 –
      I have to completely agree – the cost of achieving this status is missing – I would like to see a complete life cycle profile of the every component used in the house relative to a simple gut and rehab. My sense with much of LEED is that it has become a competition to see who can achieve the most points REGARDLESS of the price involved.

  • Louis

    Just wondering if the “four years” was factored into the certification. Many people forget the investment into what it takes, not only human manpower and intelligence, but also the overhead of the office of the architect or the contractor.

  • Susan

    Boy, there sure is a lot of nit-picking going on in the comments. “Let me show you how smart I am and post”, “oh wait, I don’t know what I’m talking about – oops”, as evidenced by a couple comments posted. And the comment re: big house for a couple people – clearly exhibits someone unfamiliar with the LEED rating system. It costs alot of money to build in Chicago, a lot of people will maximize their SF on the lot. Additionally, they may also have a home office there or studio, and a lot of that SF is stacked on a tight footprint. Geez. Of course, it’s expensive, of course, it’s time-consuming – but the owner is a pioneer nonetheless and did an incredible job! He’s a great example to others, whether in the city or not. I say bravo! The more pioneers we have boldly moving forward, ultimately, will result in lower costs. I say if someone has the cash and wants to build a killer green house – go for it. It’s better than how most wealthy folks spend their cash.

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  • Tony

    The most prominent feature on the front of the house is a large garage… that’s really green.

    • hovaard

      and gorgeous too!

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  • http://www.mygreenhomeinflorida.com G. Kisselev

    For home-buyers, LEED is a scorecard, that provides a clear picture of all the ways and means a “green” home executes at a higher level.

    For residents, LEED is a level of quality, sharing reassurance that they are residing in a building “green” home to provide fresh air indoors and enhanced water and energy efficiency.

    For home builders, LEED is an instrument accustomed to set targets and keep track of progress throughout the design and construction of a “green” home.

    • Josh wynne

      I just completed a home that registers 120.5 with a minus 22 HERS index. Two years ago (the same month Gottfried claimed the highest score) I built a home that scored 110 with a 27 HERS.

      • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

        Josh, sounds like a great green project … email me if you want to share it with the world. jetsongreen at yahoo dot com.

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