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List Price: $969,000
The Property: The sun came out earlier this week and we basked in it. And by we, I don’t mean just myself, but this Evanston house. It has a long south-facing facade that, by design, soaks up the sun.
It’s part of a very green design that you wouldn’t notice when you first pull up to the house. Out front there’s a somewhat conventional facade including a front porch and garage doors. What you don’t see is that the house is L-shaped, with this long bar stretching off the back that is designed to maximize its relationship with the sun. That starts with the solar panels on the roof that heat a lot of water for the house and the radiant floors. There are other green features as well, but the sun plays a very important role.
“It’s like living in a calendar,” says Nate Kipnis, the house’s architect and with his wife, Fran, its seller. “In June, when the sun’s the highest, the sun is totally blocked [by the roof line], it doesn’t come in. It reduces the cooling load. When the sun is the lowest, in December, it comes all the way across the floor. The dark slate absorbs the heat and works in conjunction with the radiant floor.” And on September and March 21, the sun lands on a line in between those two extremes.
The sun may come and go throughout the year, but warmth of another kind is always here. Because of the way the house is laid out in a long bar, you progress through the house from the most formal to the least formal of the family spaces. The formal living and dining rooms are on one end, then the kitchen and on to the informal dining and family room at the other.
They all flow out into the yard through a row of glass French doors. The family can spill out into the yard from any of those rooms. And the L-shape of the house dictates something noteworthy about the yard: most of the yard lies beside the house, rather than being pushed out behind its back.
The south-facing doors and windows are big to take in the sun. Because of Kipnis’s green design, their opposites on the north wall are much smaller so they don’t let out as much heat in winter. The flooring choices are green as well. There’s the dark slate in the kitchen, hallway and dining room that absorbs warmth from the sun; in the family room and other spaces is renewable bamboo flooring; and in the basement is something called marmoleum. The pattern the Kipnises chose looks like linoleum from your grandma’s basement in the 1950s. Kipnis jokes that you could eat that flooring if you were hungry, because it’s made of all-natural materials.
Strung along the house’s long bar on the second floor are four family bedrooms and, at the back, a family room that could easily be converted into an in-law suite or second master. It has its own full bath.
The present master suite is set apart from the rest of the bedrooms because it’s in the smaller piece of the L. Leaving the long family hallway, you pass the master bath and some large master closets and come into a secluded master bedroom. It’s a great retreat, in part because it can get a crossbreeze from the windows or doors on two sides.
The doors open up to a private deck that Kipnis explains is part of an intentional set of three decks: There’s the big, sun-warmed one off the main living rooms; the front porch, where’d you sit for twilight; and here, off the master, on a hot afternoon it’s shaded. Thus, you’d be protected from the sun’s heat while looking out over your urban farm, with tomatoes planted atop the lattice over the deck—where they grow like crazy, Kipnis says—and a big vegetable garden in the center of the back yard.
Price Points: Along with the green features mentioned above the house also has multiple thermostats, extra-thick insulation and other details that when the house was completed in 2003 earned it a five-out-of-five rating from Energy Star. The system has since been changed to a 100-point scale, but this house has not been rated on that scale. Kipnis, a longtime green architect, estimates that the utility costs of the home are about half those of a conventionally built home of the same size.