Category Archives: outreach

Major milestone

Today was a big day. After five years, Cathy and I feel that we finally got a big step closer to one of our goals: Getting information about our project and information about energy retrofits into the hands and minds of our neighbors in North Lawndale.

This was a long road, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Yes, we had a number of open houses, with the last one (open house #4) being the best attended event. Visitors came from all over the city of Chicago and suburbs, which was also the case for the preceding open house. But almost no one from our community attended.

Yes, there is this blog. I have fun writing and publishing it and I am always amazed when I run into people who recognize me because they’ve read it. I am still surprised by how popular it is. But it doesn’t necessarily reach the demographic I want to reach most – the North Lawndale community.

And yes, our adventures have been published and featured elsewhere, such as on Chicago Public Radio. Did that help us connect with our community? Not in a noticeable way.

We have reached out to local community organizations whose missions clearly overlap with our deep energy retrofit goals, focusing on indoor air quality, material reuse and repurposing…you name it. Nothing panned out, despite numerous follow-ups.

It was only in the past couple of months that I came across a group right here in North Lawndale calling themselves “Men Making a Difference.” One of their goals is to help young adults from our community to enter into trade training programs.

That generated the spark through which we connected, and we organized a tour of our deep energy retrofit made up completely of local residents!

Five years in the making! I have to say that this felt like one of the most relevant events we’ve had to date. And I hope we have a lot more of this coming!

Related posts:

Open house #4 – as much Q&A as we could handle

On Air with Worldview

Project featured in Medill Reports Chicago

Open house #3…

1st Open house

Open house #4 – as much Q&A as we could handle

This was a lot of work, but worth all the effort. We had a great turnout for our open house #4.

Our visitors were on a mission and arrived with just as many questions as we could handle. Popular destinations were the utility room in the basement, the drain waste heat recovery unit, the energy recovery ventilators in the basement and on the 1st floor, and the insulation mock up models.

John from Chicago Home Performance brought along his blower door test kit and set it up in the 2nd floor back door. His demonstrations also generated a lot of interest.

At around half past noon, we had the Bridgeport Pasty food truck stop by to feed our visitors and volunteers. It’s not just another food truck – its an all electric food truck! The pastys were delicious as they always are and powered us through the rest of the day.


This open house was so well attended largely thanks to the interview and the announcement of the open house this past Thursday on WBEZ’s Worldview program. The word got out to those whom we otherwise could not have reached. We would like to extend a big thank you to Jerome McDonnell and his team!

And make no mistake! The great success of this event rested on the priceless help from our volunteers, who answered questions and talked with the visitors non-stop for hours. We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to:

  • Tom Donalek,
  • Jason la fleur,
  • Matt Johnson,
  • John Bergman,
  • Percy Harrison,
  • Job Bogan,
  • Lynette Kalsnes,
  • Steve Marsala,
  • Carla McGarrah,
  • Harold Moore,
  • Anne Alt and
  • Drew Schmitt.

Thanks also to our young friends who served as our welcoming crew. We couldn’t have done this without your help!

Related posts:

On Air with Worldview

Just found your way to this blog? There is a good chance that you listened to Worldview 0n WBEZ with Jerome McDonnell and heard the segment about the deep energy retrofit of our 111-year-old masonry two flat.

The interview may have stoked your curiosity and interest. If so, can tour our building this Saturday (09/28) from 10:00 am till 4:00 pm. If you can’t make it or you have follow up questions on what you heard, this blog is the resource you want to use. To save you some time, I have composed a list of links that lead you to key posts.

This is where it starts – the building envelope

The best way to save energy is to effectively insulate and air seal the building envelope:

Electrical – saving watts

Now that the building is well insulated and air sealed, let’s take a closer look at how to bring our electricity consumption down:

Saving energy – hot water

And it’s not all about electricity. Bringing the hot water consumption down saves energy and ultimately dollars:

Staying warm

How do you stay warm during our Chicago winters? Here is what we did:

You still have questions? (and I bet you have)

Join us on Saturday, September 28th between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm to take a tour of our project.

Project tour with Green Affordable Housing Cohorts

We hosted a tour for the Green Affordable Housing Cohorts earlier this year. I like to think that the organizers of the training program liked what they saw and what they heard, because they came back with another class.


Who exactly are these Cohorts? They all have signed up for the Green Affordable Housing Training Series, which is organized by the Chicago Community Loan Fund, USGBC-Illinois Chapter, and the Alliance for Environmental Sustainability.

We toured the building again from top to bottom, looking at the nuances of turning an existing 110 year old building from energy hog to energy saver. Of particular interest were the insulation, air sealing and energy saving strategies.


But we also touched on salvaging, material reuse, and resource efficiencies. Also of interest to this group were indoor air quality and health, as well as creating a building that will become affordable to operate, run and maintain. As always, we ended up with more questions than we could answer in the short time we had.

I am glad to see a green building training program with a focus on affordability, and feel privileged to have had a small role in it. Really, I could get used to this. Well, the next best thing will be our open house on Saturday 9/28.

Tour our deep energy retrofit – open house #4

If you would like to tour our deep energy retrofit and look at the salvaged materials in the kitchen, the efficient range hood, the ventilation system with the Energy Recovery Ventilator, our efficient structured plumbing, the hydronic heating system, our green roof prep work in the attic, or how we insulated our building, make a note of this date:

Saturday 09/28/2013

We will open the doors for you to tour our deep energy retrofit

starting at 10:00 am and concluding at 4:00 pm

If you are in the process of remodeling or are thinking about it, you don’t want to miss this event. Cathy and I will be on hand to show you around and answer any questions you may have.

If you have any questions regarding the open house, feel free to leave a comment. We will responod to you as soon as possible. See y’all on Saturday 09/28.