What Makes a +Plus House So Special?

Third Party Verification

In addition to the standard visit from the city inspector’s office, each +Plus House is scrutinized by a team of licensed inspectors from the US Green Building Council throughout the home’s design and construction. The inspectors help us to design the +Plus Houses for maximum health and energy efficiency and assign us points for meeting our targets. At the end of the construction process these points add up to a LEED score. All +Plus Houses are intended to achieve LEED certification, with our first three having achieved LEED Gold and Silver. We also aim to earn a HERS energy efficiency score that beats 95% of Chicago area homes. 

We think it’s important for +Plus Houses to be LEED accredited, as many builders and brokers make empty claims of their homes having “green aspects,” without having verification and without delivering homes near the standard of performance set by the +Plus Houses. LEED status is a way of quantifying the high-performance and health aspects of green building and it’s an honor that not many homes can claim. Very few builders will go to the lengths required to construct such an airtight house, or to carefully source healthy, local components, or to stick to hard-to-build plans, all while opening themselves up to the scrutiny of testing and documenting a home according to LEED requirements. For perspective on how rare this is, when we started the +Plus House brand in 2015 we had the first LEED homes on the market in Pilsen, and we still have the closest LEED homes to the loop. The few other LEED homes in the city are farther from downtown and are priced over $1 million, in neighborhoods like Wicker Park and West Town. We’re proud to bring affordable 3,000 sf LEED homes to Pilsen.

Foam Insulated Foundation

It all starts at the foundation. The foundation of the +Plus House is surrounded by a layer of XPS foam to form a thermal block between the concrete and the ground. Other houses can experience up to 50% of their heat loss through the basement as the cold ground around the foundation saps the home’s warmth and introduces moisture. We’ve made it easy to maintain the +Plus House at a uniform temperature and dew point.

As of fall 2017 new +Plus Houses will use Ozinga’s carbon sequestering technology in their foundations slabs.

Envelope

The envelope is the key to the home’s efficiency . We fill the exterior 2×6 walls of the +Plus House with a combination of high R-value closed cell and open cell foam insulation to create a tightly sealed space, like a ziploc bag. To make sure there are no gaps in the envelope, licensed inspector teams from RESNET and USGBC conduct a series of blower door tests by pressurizing the home and identifying leaks to be sealed. The high efficiency of our envelope is expressed in our low rating on RESNET’s HERS Index. A typical Pilsen home has a HERS rating around 100 out of 150, while our first +Plus House scored a rating of just 28! This will save the +Plus House owner around $1,152 a year in heating and cooling costs and insure that the healthy indoor atmosphere of the home remains pristine.

AirRenew Drywall

+Plus Houses are among the first to use the cutting-edge AirRenew drywall. AirRenew contributes to a healthy indoor environment by absorbing the noxious chemicals from off-gassing, like formaldehyde and other VOCs, and converting them to a safe inert compound. The drywall essentially “eats” the harmful chemicals from the air before we breathe them in. This is a new application of AirRenew, as this drywall has previously been used almost exclusively in hospitals.

AirRenew drywall further preserves the integrity of the home by resisting fire, moisture, and mold at higher rates than standard drywall. We’re also happy to note that AirRenew is produced in multiple plants here in the US with commitments to responsibly source their components and dispose of their byproducts.

Right Sized & Smart Furnace

Most contractors don’t take the time to measure a home’s thermal efficiency or its airflow patterns, like we do. Because they don’t know the details of the space, when contractors are choosing a furnace they’ll play it safe by installing an oversized system with excessive energy consumption. We know that our +Plus Houses don’t need large furnaces thanks to their superior construction and we learn the details of each room’s airflow when we design our vents and ductwork with help from our LEED inspection team. Thanks to our rigorous process, we can pick the right sized furnace for each +Plus House and insure energy savings down the road for the occupants.

We like to equip each +Plus House with a Ducane’s EnergyStar certified variable speed furnace. These are smart furnaces, constantly sensing changes in temperature and humidity. The variable speed fan motor runs continually year round, allowing it to respond immediately to minute changes in the indoor atmosphere, to perpetually filter the air, and to run efficiently and quietly. You won’t experience a noticeable temperature change before this furnace begins working and you won’t hear it “fire up” to start, like you would with the single or two-speed furnaces contractors usually install.

Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)

Since +Plus Houses are built tightly for the sake of energy efficiency, ventilation is key to get rid of odors and humidity. The ERV acts like an open window bringing in fresh air and exhausting stale air, but the ERV is more efficient. It uses the outgoing air to treat the incoming air, so when the incoming stream enters the furnace it is already partially conditioned to the desired temperature and dewpoint. You can learn more about the way our Aprilaire ERVs conserve energy here.

Energy Recovery Ventilator diagram

Whole Home Water Filtration

Chicago has more lead water pipes than any other US city. Most Chicago homes are connected to the water main with a lead pipe but +Plus Houses have a new copper service pipe installed. Additionally, each +Plus House has an Aquasana whole-home water filtration system to remove lead, chlorine, heavy metals, rust, pesticides, bacteria, and any other contaminants, before they enter the house’s faucets or appliances.

Ozinga CarbonCure Concrete

As of fall 2017 the +Plus Houses will be the first homes to use Ozinga’s award winning CarbonCure technology, which sequesters CO2 in the concrete. Ozinga captures carbon gas from an ethanol plant in Wisconsin, converts it into solid calcium carbonate, and injects it into the concrete mix. The CO2 acts in part as a “filler” so that more concrete can be made from smaller amounts of ingredients, thereby minimizing twofold the carbon footprint of this concrete.  The amount of CarbonCure concrete used in a +Plus House contains enough sequestered CO2 to offset the effects of driving 8,300 miles in a car. Ozinga wrote about working with +Plus House to apply their carbon sequestering technology to residential building here

Solar Ready

Each +Plus House is built with a conduit running to the roof to support a solar array, should you choose to install one. The system will have a central inverter, allowing for detailed monitoring online or via smartphone app. The typical +Plus House roof can accommodate a 6.5 Kw array of 19 photovoltaic panels. Over a year this array would provide 10.297 Mwh of electricity, which is roughly 80% of the amount that occupants of a +Plus House would be expected to consume. For scale, in 2014 the average annual electrical consumption for a U.S. utility customer was 10.932 Mwh, though the average person lives in a home much less efficient than a +Plus House. The solar package is expected to pay for itself in energy savings in just eight years and will earn you 35% back on your federal income taxes the year after you install. Not to mention, the amount of sustainable energy this solar array generates in a year offsets the carbon footprint of driving a car 14,000 miles.

Radon Venting

Most homes never have a soil gas problem but just in case, we included a ventilation path from under the foundation that will release any potential gases above the roof. This way, any radon that may exist below the home can escape without actually entering the home. Additionally, an electrical box is installed in the roof in case you wish to add a fan to the vent at a later date.

Resource Efficient Appliances & Mechanicals

High performance homes offer the occupant a superior level of comfort and low utility bills by using resources efficiently. Here of some of the ways that +Plus Houses use smart design to conserve resources.

+ R5 Windows
We wanted to insure lots of natural light without opening up the home to heat loss so we installed JeldWen’s Schaff R5 windows. These are double-pane windows filled with argon gas for insulation, and coated with an invisible low-e layer to reflect 79% of the home’s energy back inside. The coating also reflects UV rays to protect your curtains and furniture from sun bleaching.

+ Water Fixtures
+Plus House uses 1.5 gallon-per-minute low flow plumbing fixtures and .8 gallon-per-flush Niagra Stealth toilets, the most efficient in the industry.

+ Bath Fans
Our EnergyStar rated bath fans are the gold standard for quiet and efficient odor and moisture removal. Since +Plus Houses are so tightly sealed it’s very important to have a reliable way of exhausting water vapor which can cause mold and mildew.

NO- & LOW-VOC FINISHES

Watch out for the “new” smell of cars and shoes and in other houses. That smell means that chemicals are off-gassing and the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) they release are carcinogens. When you walk into a newly built +Plus House it won’t smell new because we are selective with the chemical content of our products.

+ Paints
+Plus Houses are painted with Sherwin Williams’ Harmony. Harmony is no-VOC and we give buyers the option to upgrade to non-toxic Ecos paint, as used in the Art Institute and the Louvre.

+ Polyurethane
After Polyurethane coatings are applied they can continue to off-gas for years and most mixes contain toxic benzene, formaldehyde, toulen, xylene and arsenic. +Plus house floors are finished with Garco’s no-VOC Classic World Poly Satin.

+ Carpet
+Plus House is proud to use Shaw’s Green Label Plus carpet. We’ve selected Shaw because of their products’ low chemical emissions and their commitment to using recycled materials and practicing responsible waste disposal.

Locally Sourced Building Materials

+ Wood
The wood used in a +Plus House’s trim, closets, and cabinets is sourced according to Forest Stewardship Council standards and from within 500 miles. Our Italian style cabinets are made locally by Unico and our custom closets are made to the specifications of the buyer.

+ Bricks & Concrete
+Plus House’s bricks and produced here in Chicago, as is the Ozinga concrete we use for the foundation. AirRenew drywall is produced responsibly in various US plants.

Healthy Habits

For the buyers of our homes we’re including a season of CSA vegetable drop-offs from Tomato Mountain Organics as well as a year of compost pickups via bike from Healthy Soil Compost.

+Plus House Locations For Sale

Contact Us

For more information, fill out the form below or contact Phil Buoscio at 312-953-6725.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Subject

Your Message