Hyde Park home first in Chicago to become a certified Passive House

During a tour of the Passive House, 5485 S. Ellis Ave., on Thursday, Dec. 5, Developer, Mike Conners (right) talks with Josh Hamlett of Hamlett Computer Services about the Energy Recovery Ventilator, which provides continuous ventilation to the house. – Spencer Bibbs
During a tour of the Passive House, 5485 S. Ellis Ave., on Thursday, Dec. 5, Developer, Mike Conners (right) talks with Josh Hamlett of Hamlett Computer Services about the Energy Recovery Ventilator, which provides continuous ventilation to the house. – Spencer Bibbs

By ALLISON MATYUS
Staff Writer

A historic home at 5485 S. Ellis Ave., which was built in 1890, was recently renovated and is now the first Passive House in the city of Chicago.

The 3,500 square feet home, which includes five bedrooms, a rooftop terrace and hardwood floors has been renovated to leave a zero carbon footprint. It is the prime example of “living green,” according to the developer.

The Passivhaus (or Passive House) Institute was started about 25 years ago in Germany and builds houses to specific standards using green building methodology. The term “passive” comes from the lack of a need for heating equipment.

During a Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce First Thursday Networking event last night, Jan. 5, the house that is being called the “Kenwood Passivhaus” was open to the public to showcase the state of the art energy efficient system that Passive House homes are known for.

“The demand for heating and cooling for this house, or any building being built to the Passive House Institute building standard, is 10 percent of what a regular building is,” said Mike Conners, the developer of the Kenwood Passivhaus.

On what was a below 20 degree night, there was no heat running in the house except small space heaters with fewer watts than a hair dryer, but guests at last night’s event couldn’t tell the difference because of the home’s efficiency of energy and the triple-paned windows that sealed in the heat.

Conners said an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) acts as the “lungs” of the house, retaining the energy so that 85 percent of the energy stays inside the home.

“The energy from the warm air on the inside is transferred to the cold air coming in from the outside,” Conners said during a tour of the home.

The house has a 90 percent reduction in dust, pollen, mold, legionella and bacteria. Roxul insulation is used throughout a majority of the house, which also improves the energy efficiency of the home.

He said he and his team began renovating the house last year and that it is expected to be completed and move in ready around the end of March.

According to the Passive House Institute, there are over 30,000 Passive House buildings around the world. There are certified Passive Houses in Urbana, Ill., and in River Forest, Ill.

Conners said he wants to prove that creating energy efficient homes like the Kenwood Passivhaus is not only beneficial, but doable.

“If you want to solve global warming, this is the biggest bang for your buck,” Conners said. “If the world instantly were able to convert to the Passive House Institute building standard, global carbon emissions would crash.”

Because the Kenwood Passivhaus uses only 10 percent of the energy a regular home would use, Conners said heating and cooling bills would go down by about 90 percent for the homeowner. He estimates that whoever purchases this home will spend about $1,600 a year to heat and cool the house.

Once completed and on the market, the Kenwood Passivhaus is expected to list at $1.4 million.

a.matyus@hpherald.com