Green Tour: A Future Forward Four-Square

Green Tour: A Future Forward Four-Square

Location: Chicago, IL
Size: 3600 sq/ft


Located in the picturesque and historic Chicago neighborhood, Ravenswood Manor, this home is a future forward 'American Four-Square' house, updated to be green with a super insulated envelope, passive and active solar elements, a green roof and lots of reused and reclaimed goodies…


The house, a collaboration between developer Green Door Development and green architecture firm Nathan Kipnis Architects, achieved Chicago's Green Permit Program's highest rating. The home is situated in a neighborhood full of prairie style housing, and this style was continued in the design of the home, but there are many surprises that make this home more sustainable than the rest.

The main green design component of the home is a "solar chimney." The first floor main hall has openings in the ceiling that extend to the 2nd floor, which is open to a vaulted ceiling that contains two sets of 5 remote control operated clerestory awning windows. When the windows are opened air is drawn through the floor openings up to the 2nd floor and out of the awning windows. By thoughtfully designing the form of the building, the house is inherently green by integrating this smart, yet low-tech green feature.

While the existing home was demolished, the owner kept many components of the house to reuse. The garage was given a face-lift with fiber cement siding, new windows and doors, and the roof was upgraded with modular green roof tiles and solar thermal panels. Existing stained glass windows were salvaged and reused in the living room and re-purposed into a built-in cabinet in the family room. All the hardwood flooring was salvaged and reused throughout the house. In all, about 80% of the materials from the deconstructed house were salvaged, and materials not reused in the new home were donated to non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity and local salvage shop Rebuilding Exchange.


Other green features include Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) foundation walls and soy based closed cell spray foam insulation, which creates a super insulated and sealed building envelope. An air-to-air heat exchanger cycles out stale air, brings in new air, and captures any outgoing heat to be reused within the house. The basement is heated with hydronic radiant tube flooring, while the remainder of the house is heated and cooled via a high efficiency forced air system. All finishes have low or no-VOC content, and even the basement carpet is made from recycled plastic bottles. Finally, the first floor features the BLUEline PowerCost Monitor to provide visual feedback of the home's energy usage.

The house is for sale! For more info, visit or the house's website.



Appliances: Energy Star (Sub-Zero, Wolf, Sharp, Bosch & GE); PowerCost Energy Monitor, Rheem 90+ Furnace.

Plumbing Fixtures: Kohler faucets and pedestal sink, Laurier Dual Flush Toilets, Shaw apron front sink.

Lighting: Solar powered exterior lights, LED and Compact fluorescents throughout.

Tiles and Stone: IceStone countertops in bathrooms, Silestone Quartz Countertops in kitchen, and Ann Sacks recycled content tiles in bath and kitchen.

Paint: Sherwin-Williams no-VOC paint.

Flooring: Reclaimed oak flooring throughout, Mohawk Everstrand recycled carpet.

Furniture: Built-in bookcases and cabinetry are provided in almost every single room to reduce or eliminate the need for additional furniture.

Other: Radiant floor heat, Pella Energy Star Windows, The Reuse People, BioBased soy based spray foam insulation, ARXX Insulated Concrete Form foundation, green roof, and solar thermal panels.


Photos by Rachel Wray and VHT Studios

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