Green Architecture on the North Shore

Gary Frank, of H. Gary Frank Architects in Winnetka, and Jon Motsinger, of JPMots Inc. in Chicago, helped a North Shore couple design a brand new, eco-friendly New England shingle-style home.

Make It Better sat down with them to get the details.

MIB: What eco-friendly features did you incorporate into the home?

GF: The single biggest eco-friendly feature is the geothermal system, which uses the earth’s core temperature, which is about 54 degrees, to help heat and cool the home. When you run piping through the earth, instead of heating from zero or 10 degrees below, you’re always heating from a stable number. We also used a couple of inches of foam as the first insulation layer, which really deadens the airflow and creates a wonderful seal.

JM: They wanted materials that were inherently eco-friendly. We used wool carpeting, which is a natural, very long-lasting product. We also used low-voltage LED accent lighting in the coves and around the built-ins. I love what lighting can do for a room.

MIB: How does the radiant floor heating system tie into the geothermal system?

GF: When you add geothermal, it’s sort of natural to add radiant heating, because it’s all integrated into the same system. Whenever you do in-floor heat, your body feels warmer, so you might not turn up the heat as high as you normally might.

MIB: It’s an open house with clean, contemporary lines, but it feels warm.

JM: When I work in an open floor plan, I create groupings that have really yummy, inviting fabrics. If the fabrics and things around you are warm, you really appreciate the openness. For example, the dining room has a lot of windows, so I added fabric and wood to create warmth. In the living room there’s a two-inch shag rug. The flow of the house is just amazing.

MIB: The house may not be LEED certified, but it sounds like together you and the homeowners have created a very energy-efficient home.

GF: One key point is that it’s not all or nothing. You can certainly help the environment in various ways. If everybody does a little bit for the environment, it goes a long way.

JM: We’re really proud of it. It’s the culmination of a three-year effort.