On A Tile Basis

October 28, 2010
The gang from Performer’s Flooring & Design Gallery 25W561 Army Trail Road, Bloomingdale, IL 60108 
 finished up about 90% of the work on the bathroom tile last week.  Me thinks they did a fantastic job.

The Basement Bath

The Basement Shower

Master Bath

Master Bath Shower

Master Bath

Rain on my parade

October 21, 2010

Progress last week included polishing and densifying the concrete floor with a lithium based densifier and beginning the install of the kitchen:

a polished floor- the blue is sky, not water

Kitchen by Arclinea

Also going in last week, the 1000 gallon rain water cistern:

Greg Raymond (truck) and the crew from EcoGardens

"in the hole!"

settled in

Elemental Building- On the market

October 4, 2010

1610 N Honore is now officially for sale.  More information can be found at:


The Greenest Garage in Chicago on Google Earth

September 12, 2010

With the recently updated satellite images on Google Earth/Google Maps, The “Greenest Garage in Chicago” announces its presence to the world-wide audience:

Google Maps:   Link

At the West end of the property you can see the 40 solar manuals atop the garage canopy.  The building image shows the standing metal roof about 50% complete when it was installed this summer.

Super Site

August 27, 2010

Elemental Building, and the “Greenest Garage in Chicago”, were selected to be a Supersite for the upcoming National Solar Tour.  The tour is held annually the first Saturday in October (this year it will be Oct. 2) and is sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES).

The ASES National Solar Tour is the world’s largest grassroots solar event. This event offers you the opportunity to tour innovative green homes and buildings to see how you can use solar energy, energy efficiency, and other sustainable technologies to reduce monthly utility bills and help tackle climate change. More than 160,000 participants will visit some 5,500 buildings in 3,200 communities across the U.S.

Now in its 15th year, this event is coordinated nationally by the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society in collaboration with dozens of outstanding partner organizations.

For more information about the Illinois chapter tour, click here.

As a Super Site, Elemental Building will be listed as a suggested starting point, and a docent from ISEA will be on hand to help answer questions about solar PV and solar thermal.  The day starts at 10 am.  All are invited to attend.  1610 N Honore, Chicago Il. 60622.

Radiant Cooling? In the Ceiling?

July 30, 2010

Radiant mats installed on the second floor ceiling

One of the more novel approaches we using in the building is the process of heating and cooling the space with radiant mats in the ceiling.  The mats have a  more narrow diameter than the typical radiant tubing used in radiant floors (as seen below), but they work just the same.  In the floor, the tubing is encased in finished concrete.  

Radiant Tubing in floor


In the ceiling the tubing will be encased in plaster.  Both will create a ‘thermal mass’ and radiate heating and cooling up and down into the space.  The system works with a closed loop process, and hot water is pumped through the tubing in the winter and cold water is pumped through during the summer.  

Heating water (to run through the tubing) is more efficient than heating air, so the system will use less energy to provide the same amount of heat.  It will also be an even heat (making it more comfortable).   And because it is not a forced air system it will reduce the amount of contaminants and allergens blown around the space.  

Because the overall system is solar-based, the majority of heating will be free heat from the sun.  The set-up of the solar system is also novel in that it maximizes efficiency in a way that most solar systems do not.  The concept was initially implemented and shared with me by another green builder – Timothy Heppner. 

Below are two typical solar set-ups: 

two examples of typical solar set-ups

The downside of the above set-ups is inefficiency.  In the first example, the requirement is that the 100 gallon tank always maintain a certain temperature (ie 120 degrees).  So if the sun is not shining then either a gas or electric element heats the tank water- Even if there is no demand for hot water.   In the second example, there is no continual heating of the tank water (which helps efficiency), but if the tank water is not hot enough to supply heat to the forced air furnace, then the gas burner kicks on in the furnace and doesn’t use any of the solar heated water.  

In the system we’ve installed – the “Tim Heppner model”, the system is efficient because if there is no demand for hot water no fossil fuels are used.  If there is a demand, and solar production is sufficient then no fossil fuels are used either.  And finally, if there is demand and solar production is existent  but insufficient, fossil fuels are used only to make up the difference between what is needed and what the solar panels can produce. 

The Tim Heppner System

Wally Shah from Radiant Cooling Corporation

 Above, Wally Shah from Radiant Cooling explains the system. 

Robert Dec and Greg from DECO HVAC

the mat for the powder room is installed

More mats get laid out

Wally and Robert discuss some of the finer points (Wally isn't really mad)

Making Progress

Pressure tested and ready for water



Are those solar thermal panels on your roof, or are you just happy to see me?

July 14, 2010

6 solar thermal panels which appear to be on my neighbor's roof but aren't

John Caravette and Jerry Bradford from Earth Wind and Solar are finishing up the solar install this week.  The 6 solar THERMAL panels (not to be confused with the 40 solar PV modules on the Garage which produce electricity) will provide approximately 60% of all the heating needs of the home.  That includes domestic hot water for showers, faucets and such as well as the heating system which is a radiant floor and radiant ceiling system (and will be the subject of future posts).

Before the panels were installed though we Arthur with a little help from Superman installed the metal roof.  I found this nice description of why a metal roof on another green home’s blog – the equinox house.  In addition to the reason’s below, the standing metal roof has the bonus of not being made from petroleum. 

Why Metal?:

lasts longer (50 year warranty)
is lighter weight
higher wind resistance
fully recyclable
saves energy (keeps roof cooler)
sheds water and snow faster

Arthur and Ted check the line

Superman (aka Woytek) happy about the day's work ahead

Jerry from Earth Wind and Solar marks out the supports for the panels

Arthur's Progress

Mr Happy (photo looking east)

Arthur enjoying the heat

The finished roof

Jerry from Earth Wind and Solar, explains the system

Jeremy, the earliest investor in Elemental Building checks out the system

Jerry and Matt check out details of the supply line.

The view looking west

The 'Coyote', Bucktown's iconic tower building in the background

Two more happy workers (Matt-Left, Jerry-Right) at 1610