Many large residential homes have been built over the past two decades. Large homes require a proportionately large amount of energy to operate. The case study house we will be examining is a 12,000 square foot house on approximately 12 acres of land in the west suburban Chicago area. The entire 12-acre site is landscaped and irrigated. Water use and energy costs for the site are high. The structure was built with conventional residential materials, and has no renewable or geothermal energy resources. The site was developed with landscaping that requires irrigation. The site includes a pond, hard surface drives, some large trees and grass in open areas that is regularly mowed.
Our objective for this IPRO project is to develop an improvement plan for an iconic yet plentiful housing style that has a large environmental footprint. How will applying sustainability strategies to this house reduce its environmental footprint while at the same time maintaining its value?
As an alternative to the typical residential materials used in this house, what alternative materials could be developed for future houses? Future houses built in this subdivision may have square footage requirements or may need to be built in a size similar to our case study house. How could new housing be designed to be compatible with the neighborhood while at the same time approach net zero energy consumption?
Our approach for this IPRO project includes researching a specific 12,000 square foot home on a specific 12-acre site to determine existing conditions, including: building systems that provide heat, air conditioning, interior lighting, ventilation, plumbing, irrigation, well water, site lighting and other building amenities. In addition, the team will characterize the building envelope and its various insulation systems using a several materials and technologies. The IPRO team will research specific building materials, insulation specifications, wall section composites, R values, heat flow, HVAC zoning, HVAC equipment, pumps, motors, water consuming devices and other equipment. Through historical utility bills, the team will track existing energy and water consumption. Part of the IPRO team’s effort will include analysis of the two ponds on the property as well as a 45kW gas generator used as backup during power outages. A ComEd smart meter is installed.
After establishing baseline information, systems alternatives and sustainable landscape design solutions will be developed. Concurrent with building research, the team will study the potential for new residential building materials or new building systems that could include the state-of-the-art of microspheres and nanotechnologies. This may include the potential for integrating geothermal, solar and other renewable technologies. The outcome of this project will be a sustainability plan that the owner can use to guide investments over time that lead to a significant reduction in the environmental footprint of the property and can serve as a model for similar residences and properties. Future IPRO teams may undertake studies of the actual payback and reduction in the environmental footprint that result from the investments that are made over time.