When Craig and Megan Chesney first decided to deconstruct their old home in Oak Park and build a new, larger one, they began to research options for eco-conscious building. They talked to a lot of people and went on tours similar to the Green Living & Learning Tour to learn more. According to Megan, the building of their home was intentionally “very much a local effort from an amazing team of experts.”
Megan says Oak Park architect, Drew Nelson of WDN Architecture, LLC, “Did a wonderful job of making a new home blend into an old neighborhood.” She continued, “Our builder, Dave Himelick (Himelick Contracting) is an Oak Parker who was open to all of our crazy ideas including a 2,000 gallon tank in our basement. Our neighbor Jim Gill helped us understand photovoltaic science and navigate the government rebate system. Yet another neighbor helped with design. Finally, many visits were made to Green Home Experts to get advice from Maria [Onesto Moran].”
According to the architect, 80% of the old home was recycled, and the new home is 60% more efficient than current codes require (see more details from the architect in this Wednesday Journal article). The indoor rainwater collection system (including the 2,000 gallon tank!) was adapted from one the Chesneys saw in a home in River Forest “whose owners [Bill Gee and Sue Crothers Gee] so graciously shared their knowledge with us,” said Megan. She says that in 2008, when they began their project, “green building” was just taking off. “Geothermal was something done more in Europe than the U.S., and when we inquired about a grey water system, we were told it couldn’t be done in Illinois.” The new home is heated and cooled by a geothermal system.
At the time, many people told the Chesneys that solar energy was not viable in Illinois or the Midwest, and they found that the Village of Oak Park was just beginning to understand how to process solar permits. The home now has solar panels to supplement electricity, and to date, according to Megan, the SunPower monitoring system reports that the home “has produced 12,286 kWh, reducing emissions equivalent to not driving 20,191 miles in a standard car or the same as planting 226 seedlings grown for 10 years.”
Megan and Craig are pleased to know that many of the features and materials they have in their home “are now common practice” and those who are conducting even “the smallest of home projects have many great [green] options.”
You can visit the Chesney’s Oak Park home during the Green Living & Learning Tour in Oak Park and River Forest on Sept. 28th. For more information about the event, including registration information for all 18 sites, visit the tour page at Green Community Connections.