At first glance, you can tell it's something different. The 2,000- square-foot "hybrid house" in the north Kenwood neighborhood is the design and passion of Julian Dawson, an architect, structural engineer and devout environmentalist.
"Most Americans are going to have to change their way of life," said Dawson.
He and companion, Sylvia Ruffin, divide up household duties. During the summer, the front yard turned organic garden is Ruffin's domain.
"I feel that it's very important that people, if at all possible, avoid buying food that travelled three-thousand miles to get to you. I will not buy an apple if it says it's from New Zealand," said Ruffin.
During the winter, she monitors the temperature of the root cellar where their harvest is stored and adds extra insulation when the temperature spikes.
"We had about twenty-five different food plants growing," said Ruffin. "We've been told that we've inspired some of our neighbors."
Dawson keeps tabs on the home's energy use. The house is fitted with photo-voltaic panels to supply electricity and a geo-thermal solar hot water system. Specially insulated shutters on the windows regulate light and heat loss. And all of the appliances are energy star rated. Dawson says in just one year -- 2008 -- he has already reaped benefits.
"The total cost of energy for this house was $750. That includes natural gas and electricity," said Dawson.
In addition to wanting to live more sustainably, the native South Siders say they built the house to set an example for their community and to spark conversation about bigger issues -- including oil consumption, pollution and global warming.
"Here in the United States, we make up four-and-a-half percent of the world population. We require twenty-five percent of all the oil produced in the world," said Dawson. "We'll have to grow our food closer to home… our health care should be within walking distance. That is my greatest hope that Americans start to understand the wisdom of a re-localized life and start to demand it."
Next month, the North Kenwood hybrid house will be open for a tour through the Museum Of Science And Industry, msichicago.org
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28
3:30 - 5:30 p.m.
Black Creativity Green Field Trip (General audience)
Hop aboard a coach bus and join us on a trip to two amazing places right here in the city: the Hybrid House in North Kenwood and the City of Chicago Center for Green Technology. Come hear how one couple turned their green mission into a chic, sustainable home on the south side. You'll also learn tips for making your home a bit greener at the city's first-of-its-kind green municipal building and the location of the Center for Green Technology. To RSVP, please call (773) 684-1414.