Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chicago Green Homes Program

Today I signed the Chicago Green Homes Applicant Agreement. This is the first step in the process to get the house certified as a Chicago Green Home.

The purpose of the Chicago Green Homes Program is to encourage residential builders, developers and homeowners to use technologies, products and practices that will:
• Provide greater energy efficiency
• Provide healthier indoor air
• Reduce water usage
• Preserve natural resources
• Improve durability and reduce maintenance, and
• Reduce waste and pollution

The Chicago Green Homes Program, administered through the City of Chicago Department of Environment, provides tools and strategies for building homes and multi-family buildings that are energy-efficient and environmentally responsible. During the design phase, an architect or developer can reference the Chicago Green Homes Checklist to choose from a range of strategies, each with an associated point value. The intent of these guidelines is to provide a framework to reduce the environmental impact of single-family homes and multi-family buildings by those who develop and live in these buildings.

There are three possible target ratings (One Star, Two Star, Three Star) based upon the number of points earned in the following categories: 1) Sustainable Sites (e.g. developing on a brownfield site or a site accessible to public transportation within 1/2 mile), 2) Energy Efficiency (e.g. exceeding Chicago energy conservation code or using energy efficient mechanical systems), 3) Materials (e.g. sustainable and energy efficient materials used in construction), 4) Health and Safety (e.g. indoor environmental quality and ventilation), 5) Resource Conservation (e.g. water conservation or recycling of construction waste), 6) Homeowner Education and 7) Innovation (I think you have to come up with this yourself!).

There are numerous points that can be acheived (I stopped counting at 589), but for a single-family new construction home, which we are building, 200 points = One Star, 300 points = Two Stars and 350 points = Three Stars. I believe the U-C3, as designed, meets the Three Star criteria.

Those developments that qualify will receive a Chicago Green Homes Certificate from the City of Chicago Department of Environment. I know what you're thinking...so what? Well, besides the pride of knowing you have a sustainable and energy efficient home, I think the ultimate benefit is that projects that are certified Chicago Green Homes may also qualify for an expedited green permit process.

The City of Chicago's Green Permit Program offers an incentive to developers through 1) expedited permit review --- meaning that a building permit can potentially be turned around in approximately 30 days (a process that comparably could take 90 days), and 2) potential waiver or reduction of permitting fees.

The other benefit of being a certified Chicago Green Home is primarily for developers, who are able to market their homes using the Chicago Green Homes logo, and have their projects recognized on the City of Chicago's website. Certainly in this market, every little bit helps.

I believe these programs are a result of the Chicago Climate Action Plan (http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org) which "describes the major effects climate change could have on our city and suggests ways all of us can work together to address those challenges." Should you have the time, you can download the entire report and see what intiiatives have been planned already, and what programs the City is planning for the future.

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