His original home on the property was destroyed by fire years before, and he and his wife had decided to wait until they knew just what they wanted before rebuilding. When the time came, our clients had specific goals in mind. They wanted the most energy-efficient, low-maintenance home possible, with unique areas for their hobbies – woodworking, canning and winemaking – plus accessibility features to allow them to age in place.
The first challenge to this new construction was to place the house around the original swimming pool, hot tub, well and septic field that remained in place and fully functional after the fire. The new foundation and grading had to take these existing features into account. What’s more, the full foundation is designed with a huge space beneath the three-car garage to accommodate our client’s woodworking shop. The garage floor is constructed of pre-cast concrete planks to handle the weight of the vehicles in the garage and make it possible to have a room beneath.
The couple’s design of an energy-efficient home begins in the walk-out lower level where Styrofoam insulation is installed beneath the concrete slab, and the outer concrete walls are insulated inside and out. In addition, the entire lower level has efficient hot-water radiant heating tubes running through the concrete slab to warm the space from the floor up. Triple-pane, high-end windows are used throughout the home to hold in the warm air in the winter and keep it outside in the summer.
Energy efficiency continues upstairs. The exterior walls of the home are constructed in a unique fashion for extreme energy efficiency. A 2”x4” inner wall sits three inches from the 2”x6” exterior wall of the main floor. The two walls and the gap between are filled with dense-pack cellulose insulation to provide superior insulation from heat and cold all year long. On top of that, the attic is insulated with 22 percent more R60 loose-filled cellulose insulation than is typically used in new residential construction.
For heating efficiency during cold Illinois winters, our client designed a double-sided, custom-built masonry heater with a masonry oven as the focal point of the home’s main floor. Though similar in appearance to a stone fireplace, a masonry heater is expressly designed to be extremely energy efficient. The tightly sealed burning chamber burns wood hot and clean to warm the stone and radiate heat throughout the room, using the minimum amount of wood. The masonry heater is not only functional, it’s a showpiece of this home.
Additional heating is supplied by a multi-zone forced air heating/air-conditioning system and efficient multi-zone, hot-water radiant heating tubes embedded in the main floor and covered by lightweight concrete. Because the home is built to be so energy efficient and airtight, a heat/ventilator unit exchanges inside air with fresh outside air throughout the day.
All these features combine to fulfill our client’s goal of ultra-energy efficiency. When construction was complete, the home received a HERS rating of 47 – at least two times more efficient than most new homes built today.
After waiting so many years to rebuild, our clients really wanted their new home to include some features designed to let them enjoy their hobbies while they age in place. To start, the main floor is recessed to eliminate extra steps when entering the home from the outside. A wrap-around porch lets them sit outside to enjoy the views of their gorgeous property. The design continues inside with extra-wide hallways and doorways and an elevator to access the lower level.
Downstairs is built out with a guest bedroom, two bathrooms, a large gathering space with a built-in entertainment system, a generous storage room, and some unique rooms specifically built for the couple to really enjoy their hobbies. A his-and-hers canning kitchen has two large sinks, a full-size range and an area to make wine using the grapes grown on the property. An uninsulated area next to the canning kitchen and under the front porch is outfitted as a root cellar where the temperature is a constant 55 degrees, perfect for storing canned goods, wine and produce.
The woodworking studio under the garage is also accessed from the lower level. The room features a built-in suction system to collect sawdust, and an air-filtering system to trap the finer particles and fumes. As a woodworker, our client wanted to showcase a variety of woods in his new home, including knotty alder doors, maple floors and quarter sawn oak cabinets with pine trim.
With their hobbies to take up their time, the couple wanted to make sure their new home was as easy to maintain as possible, starting with the roof. Instead of a traditional asphalt shingle roof, they chose a standing seam metal roof that will last for the life of the home. The exterior walls feature Everlog™ siding, an extremely durable, no-maintenance material that is made in the U.S.A. of a proprietary cement blend molded to look like logs. Soffits and fascias are finished with LP® Smartside, a low-maintenance material that looks like cedar. Stone accents and cedar beams complete the low-maintenance exterior. On the inside, a durable, easy-to-clean epoxy coating is used on the floors of the garage and lower level, and a central vacuum system makes clean-up a breeze.