Chris McAuliffe is the owner of CM Real Estate Developments, a Chicago-based company. I had the opportunity to speak with him about an interesting project he’s just finished: Instead of demolishing this home in Cicero IL, a suburb of Chicago, and starting from scratch, Chris not only renovated it, but did it in such a fashion that it qualified for the NAHB (National Association of  Home Builders) “bronze” level green home. Best of all, he’s able to sell it and still make a profit, for $129,900 (US) — blowing away the myth that “green” is expensive.

We talked about two different aspects of the home: 1. What features it had that made it “green” and 2. How he is able to sell it for such an affordable price.

The house is a 1928 bungalow that’s been completely renovated and consists of about 3300 square feet of living space and includes three bedrooms, one bathroom, a brand new garage, and is fully detached.

The green features of this home include:

  • Reuse of most wood doors, trim, floors and windows. The exterior back door had to be replaced, and it was replaced with an Energy Star-rated door. The attic windows were replaced with Energy Star-rated windows.
  • Soy-based all natural paint-removers were used to strip the floors, windows and trim,
  • Zero VOC paints (Eco Spec by Benjamin Moore),
  • Low VOC floor varnish,
  • Insulation to R-30 in attic, additional insulation in walls, improved caulking and sealing of air leaks,
  • Tankless Hot Water System is used for both hot water and heating the home,
  • New Kitchen uses FSC-certified Wood kitchen cabinets, Energy-Star rated appliances,
  • Bathroom uses low-flow Kohler faucets, and tub is made from 93% recycled material, also by Kohler,
  • New garage uses roofing shingles containing recycled material and siding containing recycled material,
  • Dimmable lighting and CFL bulbs were used throughout the home,
  • Materials were sourced locally when possible.

All of these features add up to a low-maintenance, low-energy consuming home that not only is it affordable, but on-going utility costs will also be low.

Exterior, "before" Chicago green home
Exterior “before”
view to dining room “work in progress”
View to Living Room “work in progress”
affordable green house Chicago, during renovation
bedroom “before”
Attic of afforded renovated green house, Chicago, pre-renovation
Attic. Note old windows.
During renovation of affordable green home, Chicago
Basement “work in progress”

So what were the secrets to being able to renovate and resell this home affordably? Chris told me that there were a few key decisions to making the home affordable.

1. Heating: like many older homes, this one is heated with radiators. The plumbing system was in good condition when Chris bought the home so it remains intact. The boiler, on the other hand, has been replaced by a gas-powered tankless hot water system. That means it only fires up when necessary and it was a lot cheaper to buy and install than a new boiler. Although a tankless system isn’t a practical method for heating larger homes, for something as modest as this bungalow, it works well and kept Chris’ renovating costs down while saving the future homeowners heating costs.

2. Preserving and restoring all wood work: The floors were stripped and refinished, as was all the trim, woodwork, and doors (except for the back exterior door which was had deteriorated too much). Less material used, less material going to landfill, more local labour employed. All of these factors lowered the cost of the renovation.

3. Windows: The windows were stripped and refinished instead of being replaced. This decision also lowered costs. There are trade-offs to this decision of course, while new windows would have offered a tighter building envelope, old windows (if the wood frame is well-preserved), along with additional storm windows for winter, some more caulking and insulation around the frames, not only preserve the historical nature of the home, but also aren’t as leaky as you might think.

4. Caulking: The all important sealing of leaks around door and window frames. This is one of the most effective methods for tightening up a building envelope as well as one of the most cost effective.

Dining room post renovation of affordable green home, Chicago
“After” Dining Room and view into Living Room
Kitchen post renovation of affordable green home, Chicago
New Kitchen
Living room, post-renovation, affordable green home chicago
Living Room
Finished attic, post renovation, affordable green home, Chicago
Finished Attic — “Recreation Room”
Completed basement, affordable green home, Chicago
Completed Basement
Master bedroom, post renovation, affordable green home, Chicago
Master Bedroom
Finished exterior of affordable green home, Chicago
Finished Rear Exterior
backyard of affordable green home Chicago
New Garage

I asked Chris what the feedback had been like on the home so far and he told me there are four interested potential buyers at the moment.

By reusing and restoring as much as possible in the home, it allowed Chris to keep the cost of reselling the house to an affordable price. Think “greening” a home has to be expensive? It’s all about making smart, creative decisions as Chris has done with this home.

For more information on CM Real Estate Development, click here.

BEC Green

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