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Love Green Home Tech? Try an Entire Green Wall

A new build in Lincoln Park takes a literal approach to the term “green construction.”

Photos: Mike Kaskel/Kaskel Photo

Chicagoans know the quest for homegrown vegetables and lush plants is a lost cause from October to May. But, a West Lincoln Park home at 2518 North Marshfield Avenue that’s on the market for $1.6 million has a workaround: it brings the greenery inside all year long.

The 4,200-square-foot home features a vertical “living wall,” which is currently filled with plants but can be swapped out for herbs and vegetables like the ones normally grown in the backyard—thyme, oregano, basil, and tomatoes, for instance. (Some of these plants require additional lighting to thrive, an option that the builder says is built in to the home.)

The perks of that live wall, beyond access to fresh vegetables when making dinner, are twofold: first, it serves as a cool visual element in the home, taking up an 8-by-11-foot space in the dining area. Second, “it’s a natural air purifier, similar to if you were to go to Wisconsin or a woodsy area where the air is better,” says Bogdan “Dan” Popovych, owner of Panoptic Group, which built the house and recently completed construction.

There’s good news for potential homeowners who don’t have the greenest of thumbs: The wall has its own watering and drainage system, which can be set to water automatically so it requires little maintenance.

The rest of the home is outfitted with equally smart perks. Motion sensors ensure lights aren’t left on all day by accident. Doors can be locked, and shades can be turned down directly from a smartphone or via Amazon’s Alexa-enabled voice technology. (If the homeowner decides to turn on the lights or lock the door the old-fashioned way, the wireless tech can be disabled—a manual switch will still get the job done.)

The home even has a “shutdown mode” when it detects no one’s around. “Once it knows everyone has left, it’ll automatically trigger the energy savings mode—it’ll lock your doors, turn down your thermostat or increase it if it’s summer,” Popovych says. “The whole time nobody’s home, the house isn’t using any energy.”

That translates to lower utility costs for the homeowner. Popovych says Panoptic Group’s other homes about this size save an average of $2,500 a year compared to homes built through more conventional methods. Panoptic Group homes are also armed with LEED certification, a national green building standard, though Popovych admits he sort of backed into the credential. “Our goal really was to build a very efficient and a very healthy home,” he says. “We picked out and built it in such a way that by default we got the LEED certification.”

LEED-certified homes and green building are becoming increasingly common. Data from Yardi Matrix found Chicago has the highest number of green apartment buildings of all American cities, and a U.S. Green Building Council study from 2015 reported sustainable construction is outpacing more traditional practices.

Beyond the smart and sustainable features, the five-bedroom Marshfield Avenue home has contemporary finishes, an oversized chef’s kitchen with a 15-foot island, two laundry areas, and outdoor spaces on the roof and on top of the 2.5-car garage.

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