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"From the outside, a newly rehabbed greystone in Hyde Park doesn't look much different from others in its row other than having a more recently spruced-up facade. But inside, it's been rehabbed so tightly it will use about one-tenth the energy that the neighbors do.
Once its solar panels are up and running, the home on Ellis Avenue should be capable of operating entirely off the grid and generate a surplus of energy, according to its rehabber, Michael Conners, head of Kenwood Construction Services.
"We're taking a historical house essentially off the grid," Conners said. The result: "It translates into (the homeowners) saving $300 a month" and reduces the home's carbon footprint by more than half.
The house won't operate entirely off the grid: It will use municipal water.
Conners' firm is completing work on the 3,500-square-foot, four-bedroom house, which is listed at just over $1.72 million with Re/Max agent Tim Zielonka. Kenwood Construction bought the house, a foreclosure, for $338,000 in 2015 and has added about 1,000 square feet and a detached garage in the rehab.
Designed by Chicago architect Richard Kasemsarn, the addition includes a rooftop room opening onto two decks, facing east and west, although about half the roof is reserved for the solar panels that will be installed this spring. Twenty panels would generate about 10,500 kilowatt hours of energy per year, Conners said, and as designed the house should consume 9,000 kilowatt hours.
"We'll have a net energy producer here," he said.
Conner rehabbed the greystone according to the PassivHaus standards, which call for minimizing the need for artificially generated heat by using super-tight insulation around all exterior walls and below the foundation, meticulously plugging any small gaps that might leak heat. The standards were developed in Germany in the early 1990s and have been put into practice on a few buildings in the Chicago area.
Triple-pane windows with insulated frames, a ventilation system that pumps cleaned air throughout the home and oak flooring made from trees that an urban forester cut down in Skokie all contribute to the house's sustainability profile.
In the basement, ceilings that were about seven feet high have been increased to 8½ feet, thanks in part to digging down the bottom in order to insulate beneath the new foundation.
The house, a block from the University of Chicago and two blocks from Washington Park, is competing at a price level rare in Hyde Park. In the past two years, only four Hyde Park homes have sold for between $1.5 million and $2 million, according to Midwest Real Estate Data. They were all older properties, without the cost-saving benefit of the energy-reducing rehab the Ellis rehab has.
Conners said he has a contract to buy the house next door, which is not a greystone, and plans to put it through a PassivHaus-style rehab as well, and later to build a set of new PassivHaus rowhouses on a site that he hasn't yet procured."