In 2006, Michelle Werr (BUS ’97), a director at HealthScape Advisors, and her husband, a general contractor, decided to build a green home in Wheaton, Ill. Their eco-friendly residence is now a model home for her husband’s company, JAW Builders. Recently, the Werr residence was featured in the inaugural GreenBuilt Home Tour, which showcased 16 sustainably-built Chicagoland houses.
Being married to an entrepreneur and residential general contractor makes for some interesting experiences. One of the more recent twists was deciding to build our own green home to serve as a model home for my husband’s company, JAW Builders. Our house ended up being the first emerald-certified home in Illinois, which is the highest rating you can attain from the National Green Builders Association. We were excited to be among the first 25 homes in the country to achieve this status.
Basically, I live in a model home. My husband has people walking through our house all the time—of course, by appointment only. Our goal is to “walk the talk” and show people that you can have an affordable green home that can take the abuse of normal family life. In the end, not all of my husband’s clients incorporate every green feature of our house into their our own homes, but we use the walk-throughs as an opportunity to educate people so they can make the best, most informed decision for themselves.
Many of the green features we included help to improve the efficiency of our house. Our house is over 60 percent more efficient than the standard home built in 2006. We installed a geothermal heating and cooling system, which harnesses the earth’s constant temperature year-round and saves up to 70 percent on heating, cooling and hot water bills, while not adding to our carbon footprint. One thing people are always surprised about is that our gas bills are under $40 a month, most of which comprise fees and service charges. We also were very conscious to use building products that have high levels of recycled content, from siding and shingles to trim and decking.
We had to start thinking about green features before we started sketching out the plans, and we learned a lot along the way. Building our green home was a lot of work and took about a year, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.