Historic family home is the first to achieve LEED Platinum certification in Chicago

A 119-year-old family home in Chicago, the Newman Residence, recently became the first LEED Platinum home in the city. This year, the Newman family renovated the house to include new, more sustainable fixtures, closely following LEED v4 standards for residential projects. The remodeled home scored an impressive 83 points out of 100, above the 80-point threshold to achieve LEED Platinum certification.

The remodel was led by Brent Widler, principal at Widler Architecture Inc., a firm with a background in LEED projects and remodeling historic homes. Robyn Vettraino, president of Verde, LLC, was the sustainability consultant, bringing her extensive LEED for Homes experience to this project. Together, the pair was able to draw on their background to create a greener, healthier and more sustainable living space for the Newman family.

Merging historic charm with high-tech features

The home presented a unique challenge: How could they maintain a historic building while also adding the latest green technology? The building was over 100 years old, so it was important to keep that traditional look and style, while also adding newer features.

An open-concept kitchen with modern granite countertops

Photo credit: Michael Lipman Photography.

One major change was the addition of a high-performing forced air system. Integrating it into the older home was the most difficult part of the project, since some of the spaces were challenging to access, and getting the required duct sizing and airflow throughout the home took work. The addition of closed-cell insulation to the building also made it hard to control the humidity and maintain proper air flow. To solve this problem, heat recovery ventilation systems were installed to draw in fresh air and better control the airflow, making the home more energy-efficient.

Designing a space thoughtfully

The home was remodeled to directly address the needs of the Newman family. Lighting and mechanical systems were updated to be more efficient, and windows were replaced. The remodeling process took sustainability into account at all levels, using natural stone and local drywall when possible, and recycling almost all of the waste produced during construction.

A green backyard and patio in the back of the house

Photo credit: Michael Lipman Photography.

“The great thing about this project is how well it was located," comments Vettraino. "We achieved full points in Location and Transportation, as well as Sustainable Sites."

An existing acquaintance among Vettraino, Widler and Jaquelyn Newman—the three had all graduated from Iowa State University—helped smooth the project's tactics and timeline. "We found, with the Newmans' existing knowledge on the process and goals, and our previous work integrating into Widler Archicture’s design guidelines, we ultimately didn’t have to suggest additional features or changes to achieve LEED Platinum," says Vettraino.

After the remodel, the home is not only a healthy and livable space for the Newman family, but a thoughtfully designed example of sustainable priorities.

“The LEED goals of this project were that we could create this type of home in a traditional style that keeps its tie back to its history, but also creates a current, comfortable and sustainable home for the next 100 years,” says Widler.

Learn more about LEED for residential projects