The following article appeared in Crain’s Chicago Business on February 9, 2015.  It is a look at the future that is here now.  Many people question if we are able to not only build our homes and businesses to be carbon neutral but also whether we can convert the current building stock to be carbon neutral by 2050.  The fact is that it is being done today.  

Furthermore, it will be a huge boon to our economy by providing an enormous number of well paying jobs that cannot be outsourced overseas.  And it will save the owners enormous amounts of money that can be spent on other things that will provide an additional boost to our economy.  A triple win: climate, jobs and economy!!

These Homes Are Crazy Energy-Efficient

by H. Lee Murphy

When the housing market crashed in 2008, homebuilders like Bogdan “Dan” Popovych figured they needed a fresh way to stand out in the bleak marketplace. So Popovych, a Ukrainian emigre who owns Panoptic Group in Chicago, went green—with a vengeance.
Along with a few other builders in the area, Popovych has moved to the forefront of smart, sustainable new-home construction. Panoptic homes are built with rooftop solar panels, “sealed-home” insulation and automated controls that allow everything from thermostat levels to lights and locks to be controlled from a homeowner’s mobile phone or computer.
Panoptic erected its first green home in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village nearly three years ago on speculation and found a buyer, at $1 million, within two weeks of putting it up for sale. The new homeowners were delighted to find that they were negative users of electricity—the meter ran backward as they sold the surplus power produced by their solar panels on most days back to Commonwealth Edison. Popovych calculates that the family, benefitting from an annualized utility savings of $2,500, could pay off their mortgage in 23 years instead of 30.
Another home, a six-bedroom house of 4,000 square feet that he sold last summer, ran air-conditioning bills of $16 a month during the worst of the heat, he says.
“Coming out of the recession it seemed that efficient living—saving $200 to $300 a month in utilities—would become a priority for homeowners,” Popovych says. “And there were no other developers in neighborhoods like Bucktown and West Town doing this kind of construction.”
Popovych, 31, came to Chicago with his family in 1993 and earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Loyola University Chicago. The son of a now-retired homebuilder, he developed his first project, a three-unit building, in Humboldt Park at age 19. His brother, Roman Jr., 26, is Panoptic’s operations director.
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High-performance homes once were considered expensive, but costs have come down since low-priced solar panels made in China and cheap automation electronics from Asia flooded the U.S. market. By most estimates, green construction adds somewhere between 3 and 10 percent to the price of a new house.
Panoptic has a half-dozen green homes plus two multi-unit dwellings with 14 apartments in all under construction, with most of the single-family homes priced between $900,000 and $1.5 million and several of them candidates to win the highest award of all, the platinum certificate in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design from the U.S. Green Building Council.
“It’s very unusual for any builder to want to build just LEED homes, as Panoptic does,” says Jason LaFleur, owner of Eco Achievers in Oak Park who inspects houses to ensure they are LEED-worthy. “Other builders talk about various smart home features, but Panoptic has really embraced the entire concept.”

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