Blending green technology and living with their European preferences in architecture has finally given the Yuselic family the ideal home.
At 2,600-square feet, the two-story is among the smallest in the upscale subdivision, but in every space, form follows function, says Nathan Yuselic, a power engineer and native of Eastern Europe.
"Here (in America), the houses are a little too big. The subdivision has a minimum square footage of 2,600 square feet. This is the smallest we could make it," he says.
"It was built for us, for the way we live. I did not think about resale."
Those lifestyle preferences include smaller bedrooms than conventional homes feature, no TVs in the living room or bedrooms and a floor plan that allows rooms to open into one another on the first floor, but provides what Nathan calls "an open corner" where family members can go for privacy.
A separate TV room opens into the living area but can be closed off with French doors. Two offices provide space for Nathan and Barb Yuselic to each work on their computers. One office is one the first floor and converts easily into an in-law suite, complete with bathroom and closets when the Yuselics' parents visit from Europe. The other office is adjacent to the master bedroom on the second floor.
The kitchen was also specifically designed for Barb, who is a proponent of healthy eating. "She makes her own bread and yogurt, and one pantry has all of her ingredients. The second pantry has room for my things," Nathan says with a chuckle.
Once they decided to build a truly green house that would use little energy, the Yuselics needed to select the right architect. An extensive online search led them to Debra Rucker Coleman, whose Alabama-based business Sun Plans, Inc. specializes in housing designs that take advantage of passive solar power.
"Everything started with a simple essay about how we lived our lives. The plans took eight months to complete," Nathan says. "The goal was to build a gold standard house."
That goal has been achieved with this home, constructed by Cook Builders of Crown Point, which has earned a Gold Certificate status from the National Association of Home Builders.
"Cook Builders wanted to build a truly green house, and they spent a year with me researching this kind of construction," Nathan says. "It took eight months to build."
Designed to be an airtight envelope, the home's insulation figures prominently in its energy-saving construction.
Insulation in the roof, for example, is composed of foam and recyclable wool. Cellulose insulation against inside walls and rigid foam insulation between the studs facing outside help prevent heating or cooling losses from the interior to the exterior.
"There's R-50 insulation in the ceiling and R-35 in the walls. The floors are also fully insulated," Nathan says. "This all helps to prevent the thermal bridge and reduces the heating and air conditioning elements. It helps in the summer to reduce condensation inside the house and makes it more durable."
Throughout the winter, the home is heated with a combination of passive solar energy that flows through the windows and the furnace, which is usually on only for a few hours a day. The glass in the windows that have a southern and eastern exposure feature glass with a high-solar heat coefficient.
The heat generated by the sun stays in the house in cold weather. However, the windows also help keep the heat out in the summer time, Nathan says.
After working with the architect and builder to construct an airtight, energy-efficient home, the couple decided on interior finishes, many of which also are part of green living.
"It was picking and choosing what was available within a price range," he says. For example, the kitchen countertops are made of recycled glass, which Nathan says is stronger and less expensive than granite. No carpeting was installed in the home to avoid off-gassing by volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
"The flooring was based on aesthetics. We like wood," he says.
The paint and stains used throughout the home also were low-VOC products. "Because the house is so airtight, we needed materials that would have less smell," Nathan says.
Energy-efficient LED and compact fluorescent lighting can be found throughout the house and provide "layers of light."
Nathan monitors all the functions of the home from a computer and can even control the HVAC, thermostats, lighting and other features remotely online while the family is traveling in Europe.
"You don't have to have a big investment. You can build this system of monitoring from the ground up. You can buy any of the devices yourself," he says.
Although green building and living seem to be the wave of the future, Nathan says there are few governmental incentives to build green.
"I was very disappointed to find out that there are basically no incentives for home owners to build green homes. There are number of tax credits for refurbishing the existing home and for the new homes they are limited to solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal heat pumps," he says.
"Building Green home means much more then those three things, and there should be federal incentives and programs that would help people to take that path.
"I wouldn't be that disappointed if our government didn't have Green Economy on the top of its agenda. But since that is the case, there is big discrepancy between political rhetoric and reality," Nathan says.
Part of going green is promotion, he says.
"With current federal tax law, I believe it will be a hard sell for most of the people. Building green typically cost 10-20% more then conventional construction and return of investment through reduce energy bills can be decades. So, for people that make decision in financial terms, federal incentives must be available to consider building green."