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A Chicago Developer is Building Eco-Friendly Houses for Pro Athletes

Local developer Evolutionary Home Builders is pushing beyond routine green design with a new set of houses for professional athletes. They will be priced above $1 million.

EHB built the Chicago region’s first certified Passive House, in River Forest.   Photo: Courtesy of Evolutionary Home Builders

Demonstrating just how nuanced the market for green homes has become, a Chicago builder is promoting what could be the first custom houses designed to further the performance of professional athletes. Evolutionary Home Builders (EHB) calls it their “Pro Homes” program: modified design/build that makes extra concessions to health and high-performance in materials and technology and hopes to find pro athletes to buy into it.

There are many local builders designing homes to some kind of heightened environmental standard with or without certification; a number building or renovating to Energy Star or LEED certifications; and a few committed to LEED or the more stringent Passive House standard, where a house uses 80 percent less energy than conventional construction to heat and cool and 70 percent less total energy. EHB is in the more exclusive group, on a small scale. “Unless you certify, it’s basically all marketing,” says Brandon Weiss, the company’s founder.

Weiss plans for the Pro Homes to be net zero, meaning that the total energy used by the building annually is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created there. That feat can be accomplished through LEED or Passive House. The latter, however, is the most cost-effective way to get to net zero with smallest amount of renewable energy required to get there. Weiss touts the building science in Passive construction that eliminates the risk of moisture being formed in the walls and therefore greatly extends the home’s durability and lifespan.

Weiss, who built the Chicago region’s first certified Passive House and also builds eco homes in Belize, plans to break ground on seven houses in the Chicago area this year apart from any orders for Pro Homes. He says the reason he’s dialing up the novelty in a new arm of the business is his background as a pro basketball player in Europe and recognition that top athletes are going to obsessive lengths to gain a slight edge in their sport. “Players know about hyperbaric chambers and ice baths, but they don’t necessarily consider their living environment. They might drop hundreds of thousands a year on treatments and supplements, so clearly will spend the money for an edge.”

EHB rigorously tested air quality in its existing green homes and is hoping for certification under a new human health and wellness standard for buildings, the Well Building Standard. This is the first medically researched building certification, honed by the International Well Building Institute.

The homes will be expensive—but not conspicuously so. No rotundas, sports courts, or six-car garages. Weiss expects to price just over $1 million, with variation by size, location, and customization, and will target young pros entering an ultra-competitive league. The gambit is that an NBA or NFL rookie will want something nice that isn’t $5 million, and this program can offer them a leg up. It’s no coincidence the launch coincided with the media storm around the NFL draft.

In order to promote “restoration, relaxation, and well-being,” each house includes the following in addition to green features that are part of the Passive House protocol:

  • Custom lighting programmed to human circadian rhythms
  • Red List Free (toxin free) building materials
  • Whole house air quality delivery system
  • Comfort and health optimized water delivery system
  • Reduced electromagnetic frequency programming  

Weiss is confident his homes will have a big impact on health and is offering a money-back guarantee if several rounds of testing over year one show the house has little to no positive effect on its owner’s health or stamina. Asked if the marketing will take broader aim than just pro athletes, Weiss said they are definitely the targets but he wouldn’t be surprised if Olympians or others dedicated to fitness in their private lives took notice.

Don’t look for this product to explode on the scene. Clearly it’s highly specialized and exploratory. “We’re ready to mobilize with a few houses,” says Weiss. “But to really scale up we’ll need to hire and train.”

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