Construction completed on Evanston’s first LEED platinum-certified house


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Nathan Kipnis speaks to an audience of 70 at the Evanston History Center on Thursday. Kipnis designed Evanston’s first LEED platinum-certified home.

Caitlin Chen, Reporter

Construction recently finished on Evanston’s first LEED platinum-certified house, designed by Chicago-based architect Nathan Kipnis.

The one-story house, located at 1426 Mulford St., is the first single-family home in Evanston to gain any form of LEED certification, Kipnis said at a presentation at the Evanston History Center Thursday. LEED is a green construction program that certifies buildings — based on elements of energy and resource efficiency — at several levels, with platinum being the highest.

Kipnis said he is a proponent of passive solar building design, a building style that capitalizes on solar energy and the home’s structure for heating, rather than using technologies like geothermal heating. The house, built for Dana Pearl (Weinberg ’80), has a distinctive butterfly roof, a design that creates a valley by sloping two surfaces. This pushes rising hot air to the corners, where remote-controlled windows allow the air to escape.

Instead of standard gas-powered appliances, the house uses electric water heaters, cooktops, dryers and mechanical systems. The house uses heavy insulation and is estimated to use 74 percent less energy than a conventional house would, Kipnis said.

The house’s 24 solar panels, located on the roof, provide 39 percent of the house’s power, saving its homeowner around $560 each year, Kipnis said. The remaining electricity comes from the energy company Dynegy, which provides entirely renewable energy to residents and small businesses.

During the presentation, Kipnis also criticized President Donald Trump’s administration’s stance on the environment, noting the president’s recently imposed a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels. In light of this, however, Kipnis praised Evanston’s environmental efforts.

“We’ve been through this before, where we’ve had the government kind of turn on us, and look what Evanston did when that happened,” he said. “With Bush … Evanston stepped up and we’re one of the greenest cities in the country. So we’re used to this, and I think we’ll do fine.”

Chuck Harrington, a member of Citizens’ Greener Evanston, attended the event and told The Daily he felt confident in the growth of renewable energy.

“Green energy and green things have gone down the road enough that I don’t think there’s any stopping it now,” Harrington said. “Things would probably move along faster if everybody in the government understood what’s going on, but (Trump is) not going to stop it.”

Kipnis said his company, Kipnis Architecture and Planning, is participating in the 2030 Challenge, which asks participants to dramatically reduce fossil fuel usage, with the goal of carbon-neutral buildings by 2030. Out of 20,000 architecture firms in the United States, 200 signed on to the challenge. In 2017, 331 projects met the target of a 70 percent reduction, including Pearl’s house.

Pearl said developers and designers have their own idea of how they want a house to look, and sometimes she has to remind them that she’s the one who’s going to live there.

“Most of the time, the arguments are about design, not about environmental stuff,” Pearl said. “When Eco Achievers says you have to use this spray foam insulation that’s made out of soy, those are not negotiable.”

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the location of Nathan Kipnis’s office. It is located in Evanston. It also incorrectly stated the LEED certification status of the house, located at 1426 Mulford St., in the headline, caption and body of the story. The LEED certification is pending. Additionally, the story incorrectly stated which program Nathan Kipnis’s company is involved in. The program is AIA’s 2030 commitment. Lastly, the story incorrectly how many firms signed on to the commitment. There are 400 firms who have signed on. The Daily regrets the errors.

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