What Local Historic District DOES NOT do: · Does not regulate paint colors · Does not require repairs or renovations to be made · Does not increase taxes beyond normal increases for the City or County · Does not prevent additions · Does not prevent non-contributing homes from being demolished · Does not require use of historic materials or historic building methods · Does not require that you open you home to the public · Does not restrict routine maintenance of properties
What Local Historic District DOES do: · Recognizes that Oakhurst has a distinctive historic character important to the overall character of the City of Decatur · Encourages creative and compatible development with historic areas · Requires that a Certificate of Appropriateness be obtained for exterior changes to contributing properties, demolition of buildings, and new construction. · Applies only to major renovations to the exterior of your home. Interior renovations are not restricted.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

You can be green and historic

Thom Day and Dennis Scott knew instantly that their Chicago bungalow was meant for them the moment crossed the threshold during a house tour last summer. They loved the vintage trim, wood floors, windows, and, in the attic, denim scraps used as insulation. Built in the 1920s, the house had been renovated as a "green bungalow" as part a project the city of Chicago launched last year.
Defined as cottages with a low-profile roof and single attic dormer, bungalows account for about a third of Chicago's single-family houses. Most of the city's 80,000 bungalows were constructed between 1900 and 1940.
"Energy efficiency wasn't around when the bungalows were built," says Charles Shanabruch, executive director of the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association. "This is a great idea. The project gives people new ideas, directions, products, and materials to work with."
Day and Scott paid $143,000 for the house and moved in last September. They live in Chicago's Marquette Park on the same block as three other previously vacant bungalows that were restored in a way that conserves energy and materials. The "green bungalow" project is part of Mayor Richard Daley's strategy to make the Windy City known as an environmentally friendly place.
"We wanted to take these historic buildings and develop the green technology without destroying historic details," explains David Reynolds, the deputy commissioner of the city's department of environment. To restore the bungalows, the city's housing and energy departments worked with the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, the Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program, the Greater Southwest Development Corp., and the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association. "Each of the not-for-profits bring their own expertise and strengths," Reynolds says.
All of the four houses had been foreclosed about five years ago and were boarded up when they were chosen for the program in 2001. Each was to be developed according to a theme: handicapped-accessible, home office, young professional's home, and a classic bungalow.
"Everyone who worked on the project tried to ensure that materials were shipped from local suppliers to conserve resources," says Nate Kipnis, one of the project architects. "It's fine and dandy to say we're using marble, but if it's marble shipped from Italy, it kind of defeats the purpose of energy efficiency."
Denim scraps insulate the attic of Day and Scott's classic bungalow, the one model where all the interior trim was saved and reused. The original water boiler stayed in the basement as an example of how bungalows were heated, but the house now uses a tankless water heater. Popular in Europe, the small, energy-efficient unit heats water on demand in seconds, while older models keep water warm all day, driving up gas bills.
In the handicapped-accessible bungalow, workers widened all the doorways, added a wheelchair lift to the side of the house, and planted gardens at wheelchair level. A cork floor conserves heat during the winter, and old newspapers and phonebooks insulate the attic. The kitchen countertops are lowered to wheelchair height, but overhead cabinets make the kitchen useful to non-handicapped owners. Geothermal energy, a system that saves hundreds of dollars annually, heats and cools the house via three 150-feet deep holes in the back yard.
The office bungalow's floor tiles are made of recycled tires, and it's insulated with rock wool, popular in the early 20th-century. Kipnis prefers it to other types of insulation because it's non-flammable and non-allergenic. Radiant floor heat and slate flooring keep the house warm in the winter: It's heated by a system that works as both a furnace and hot-water heater, circulating hot water through coils while a fan blows warm air generated by the hot water. The system draws outside air for combustion and can hold up to 40 gallons of hot water.
The roof of the young professional's bungalow has air-flow panels to keep the deck from rotting and solar panels that provide electricity. Windows are made from aluminum, and the trim from recycled wood. A special heating system saves money, since more heat is provided incrementally as winter sets in.
When spring arrives, the bungalows' landscaped gardens will bloom in an environmentally friendly way. In each garden, French drains recycle rainwater to maintain hardy native plants. The city selected varieties that don't need as much water as other exotic species.
Perhaps the bungalows' biggest contribution to the environment is their impact on their immediate surroundings on Fairfield Street. After all, the four previously forgotten houses have been sold to new owners (the most expensive bungalow was the young professional's model, which sold for $155,000). And, the city says, the green bungalows have inspired others to undertake similar renovations on bungalows in the up-and-coming Chicago Lawn and Marquette Park neighborhoods.