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Ellis Passivhaus | 5485 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago IL 60615  view map 
Chicago’s first Passivhaus Institut Certified Building and first EnerPHit Renovation. 90% reduction in building energy demand. 90% reduction in dust, pollen & airborne bacteria.
(Under Construction – Pre-Drywall)

SIZE: 3,525 square feet

PROJECT TYPE: Single Family – Renovation/Remodel

HERS Rating (Pending)
Passivhaus Institut – EnerPHit (Pending)

Kenwood Property Development
5485 South Ellis Ave, Chicago, IL 60615

Eco Achievers
1647 W Fulton St, Chicago, IL 60612
EcoAchievers provides consulting, energy rating, and third-party verification services to help deliver sustainable, high-performance homes. Experience with Energy Star, LEED, NGBS, and GreenStar programs.


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Located on the University of Chicago campus approximately 100 yards north the Regenstein Library, Ellis Passivhaus constitutes a comprehensive structural and mechanical renovation of an 1890’s Greystone row house to the Passivhaus Institut Building Standard.  This property was extremely distressed when acquired. Initial demolition revealed a porous foundation and highly compromised roof and floor joists. The structure was demoed to the brick and three large format window openings revealed. A 900 square foot four story addition with east and west terraces was incorporated.

Every Passivhaus Institut Certified Building must limit building energy demand to 7.92 k/BTU PSF/YR for renovations and 4.75 kBTU PSF/YR for new construction. Airtightness is limited to 1.0 ACH for renovation and .6 for new construction. A Passivhaus Institut Certified Designer must model the building in question using the proprietary, enterprise design-build PHPP software, “Passivhaus Planning Package” which incorporates building assemblies, insulation levels, windows, heating and cooling systems, size, geospatial coordinates and a myriad of other details to ascertain building energy demand. Over the course of construction, extensive documentation occurs including the periodic implementation of “blower door tests” to ascertain the ACH (airtightness.)  The ACH of Ellis Passivhaus when acquired was ~ 17.0. It is now ~ .27, far below the required standards. Current Code for new construction in Illinois is 5.0 ACH. A continuous layer of insulation runs from below the slab to the parapet and under the roof resulting in an average wall R value of ~ R 35 and a roof R value of ~ R 65. As a consequence of the PHPP proscribed insulation levels and resulting ACH Ellis Passivhaus requires about 2000 kWH (~ 69 THERMS) in energy to heat and cool per year to maintain the required interior temperature standard, approximately 68-74 degrees F.   Since Ellis Passivhaus derives 100% of its energy from electricity and since the current price of a kWH  approximates $.15 cents each, annual energy expense approximates $300.00 per year for heating and cooling.  Since a PV solar panel produces about 450 kWh per year, this energy demand can be satisfied with about five PV solar panels. Other essential energy requirements like hot water production, ventilation, and refrigeration approximate another 3000 kWH per year which similarly could be satisfied with approximately seven PV solar panels. One kWh of electricity from COMED results in approximately one pound of carbon emissions.  Therefore, 5000 kWh of electricity from COMED results in 5000 pounds of carbon emissions per year in contrast to a comparable regular house, which produces approximately 80,000 pounds of carbon emissions per year. With some fifteen PV solar panels installed, complete energy independence and zero carbon emissions will result.

In addition to remarkable energy (and operational) efficiency, every Passivhaus Institut Certified Building delivers remarkable indoor air quality through continuous balanced mechanical ventilation which in this case filters the air to a MERV 13 (operating room) standard removing at least 90% of dust, pollen, and airborne bacteria. In addition, an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) retains 90% of the energy within the house. White Oak Plank flooring was procured from an urban forester from trees felled from Evanston which were locally milled.  Porcelain tile which destroys bacteria through “photocatalysis” and drywall which sequesters VOCs are each slated for installation.

Dr. Wolfgang Feist and his colleagues are credited with founding the Passivhaus Institut and building the first proof of concept dwellings in ~ 1990. Tens of thousands exist, and a Passivhaus Institut building can be found on every continent and in every climate zone including Antarctica.