A Chicago House That Is "Healthy, Efficient, and Right-Sized for Comfortable Living"

©. Eric Hausman Photography

There's a whole village of green houses open for touring in Chicago this weekend, and one of them is a Passive House with a catchy name: the Right-Sized Oak Park Home. It's designed by Architect Tom Bassett-Dilley, and is "healthy, efficient, and right-sized for comfortable living." It's all of those things, and looks like it will fit right in Oak Park, famous for its Frank Lloyd Wright houses.

Right sized house living room

© Eric Hausman Photography

The house is going to need a special wall for all the plaques and certifications; it's going for Passive House under PHIUS 2015, LEED-H Platinum, Net Zero Energy, HERS. It's all very nicely done. The window supplier, Zola European Windows, tells us that "The windows are Zola Thermo uPVC, triple-glazed units with insulated uPVC frames, an incredible value for Passive House performance." I am not normally a fan of vinyl windows, but might have to rethink that, these are a whole different breed. Windows that meet Passive House standards can be really expensive; A high efficiency more affordable window could make a real difference in the acceptance of the Passive House standard in North America.

Right sized house ktitchen

© Eric Hausman Photography

But what I found more interesting than Tom Bassett-Dilley's Right Sized House is his Manifesto for the New American Dwelling , that he posted on his site last year. It's a gem, a must-read for anyone, architects, builders and home-buyers. It nails it. A heavily edited selection from it:

The New Dwelling:

Shall be just big enough. No wasteful spaces, no unnecessary basements, no duplication of function (multiple dining areas, extra bathrooms, empty “formal” living rooms, towering foyers...)

Shall be efficient. Small is a good start in this regard, but it also must have proper window orientation and shading, a compact form, a superinsulated, airtight thermal envelope, and efficient lighting, appliances, and mechanical systems.

Shall promote health. No more toxic materials!– Natural materials with minimal finishes predominate.

Shall promote nature-connections. No more sterile boxes that cut people off from the environment! Harmony with Nature is the foundation of health, arguably is the definition of health.

Shall be durable. No more throwaway finishes!

Shall be lovable. This not about design dogma, a “look” or “style”–just authenticity.

Lovability is a subject of debate ever since Steve Mouzon started talking about it at The Original Green. Architects don't usually like it; Mouzon has written that " Lovability, a concept deeply distrusted by architects of most stripes, is actually the gateway to sustainable architecture because if a building can't be loved, it will not last." I had trouble with it, preferring Ruskin's dictum "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." But beauty is hard, and utility can be really boring. Lovability is growing on me.

Read the whole manifesto, print it, and nail it to your wall.