The Greenest House Ever Built?

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The city of Chicago has a new, ultra-modern looking house.

But what's more important than the home's look is the fact that it's ultra-green.

Michael Yannell wanted the greenest home ever built, and here it is...a house that actually produces more energy than it consumes.

"I wanted to set an example. I wanted to show that alternative energies could be used in Chicago, in the upper Midwest," he said.

The environmentally-conscious architectural firm Farr Associates says this was a dream job.

"And you can imagine our reaction as architects; we were thinking this was a gift," said architect Jonathan Boyer.

Some 48 solar panels are sequestered all around the roof area, creating so much energy, it's more than Yannell can use -- so there goes his power bill.

"I said I wanted the most energy-efficient home that you can build me that uses alternative energy systems," Yannell said.

Solar panels also produce all the heat Yannell's water heater needs.  And speaking of water, the tilted roofs naturally channel rainwater for Yannell's use.

There's also something called a "gray water treatment system." It recycles water from the washing machine into the toilets.

"We've kind of used the same water twice, once to wash the clothes and the second time to flush the toilet," explained Sachin Anand of DBHMS Engineering.

Water's also used to heat and cool the home.

A geothermal system pipes water to underground wells, and there it's cooled in the summer and heated in the winter, then shot back up through the house.

"We've made the breakthroughs, created the pioneering that's necessary permit-wise, construction-wise and design-wise, and we're hoping we will be imitated, which would be the greatest compliment we could imagine," Boyer said.

Some of the eco features are passive, like taking advantage of natural sunlight by having two whole walls of windows, a huge southern exposure and a wide courtyard.  The kitchen countertops are made from recycled paper.  Recycled porcelain or walnut makes up all the flooring.

But this four bedroom, two bathroom house didn't come cheap. It cost $1.6 million.  Still, Yannell says this isn't about the money, it's about being an example and an educator.

"I just really hope people take note and kind of change some attitudes, inform themselves and, ultimately, change some behaviors," he said.

Yannell hopes the U.S. Green Building Council will make it official sometime this summer and certify his house the greenest ever built.

*Originally aired June 11, 2009

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Paul Strand

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As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.