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Building Health Into Homes

Improved indoor air quality is one of the most important factors in building a healthier home. As today’s homes are being built to comply with stricter, more energy efficient standards, it becomes even more important to prioritize clients’ overall health. When building Chicagoland’s first certified Passive House, I had to ask myself, what good is a super-energy-efficient house if the materials used to build the house could potentially compromise the homeowner’s health? Many building materials contain toxic chemicals that can off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Unfortunately, most people do not know that there are potentially hazardous materials in most drywall, hardwood flooring, carpets, plywood, glues, caulks, cabinets, insulation, countertops, and furniture. Fortunately, we can make better selections by choosing products that are third-party certified for indoor air quality such as GREENGUARD Gold (formally known as GREENGUARD Children & Schools), CRI Green Label Plus, or products meeting State of California’s Department of Public Health standards for VOC emissions (California section 01350).  While some certified products cost more, others do not. A Passive House is a well-insulated, extremely air tight structure built to meet the most stringent energy standard in the world, so it was hugely important to me and my client to use as many third-party certified products as possible. Just as important as building an energy–efficient, healthier home is the ability to do this cost effectively. All it takes is a builder who is truly committed to your health and well-being. Written by Brandon Weiss / Co-authored by Victoria Di Iorio Stay Tuned for Part 2 for “Building Health Into...

Chicagoland’s First Certified Passive House: Part 1

Weiss Building & Development has proudly completed the first Certified Passive House in the Chicagoland area and only the 28th in the United States. This is a great accomplishment of setting a higher bar for how efficient a home can be, without the necessity of expensive equipment. Architect and Certified Passive House Consultant Tom Bassett Dilley Architects designed the 3600 square foot home is in River Forest, IL. Passive House is the worlds most stringent energy efficiency certification that is only pass/fail; there is no honorable mention. The certification was founded in 1988 by Dr. Wolfgang Feist and the first “passiv haus” was built in Darmstadt, Germany in 1990. Since then over 30,000 certified projects have been completed in Europe and building codes in Germany are starting to adopt this type of construction as part of the code requirement. The United States is gaining traction slowly with 27 homes completed prior to WBD’s first Certified Passive House in Chicagoland. The homeowners of this Passive House decided to build a home because the house they wanted did not exist on the market. They wanted a home that was healthy, comfortable, efficient, super durable, and concrete. The Passive House approach was perfect for comfort and energy efficiency. Our knowledge, focus and air quality testing resulted in a healthier home. Insulated concrete forms (ICF’s) by Biltmore Insulated Concrete served as a perfect fit for the concrete home requirement, by providing a quick way to frame the home, a great r-value and airtightness. The durable aspect came from the level of building science and knowledge in our project team, as well as the...

2012 Northern Illinois HBA Builder of The Year

The Northern Illinois Home Builders Association recently awarded 2012 Northern Illinois Builder of The Year to Brandon Weiss, owner of Weiss Building & Development. “It is a true honor to receive this award, and be recognized as one of the top builders in the area.  It is especially rewarding to receive an award that is voted on by other builders, remodelers, and industry professionals,” notes Brandon Weiss. Our main focus has been on building the highest quality homes using the most advanced building sciences, while also focusing on energy efficiency and indoor air quality.  We have focused on all areas of “green building” and have many third party certified projects.  Building a quality home and giving our clients a great experience is what we strive to do.  In order to quantify and qualify our quality claims, we have been getting our projects third party verified for quality (beyond local code officials). “ Brandon Weiss continues to set himself apart with high-level education, designations, and certifications focusing on building high-performing quality homes.  In 2012, Brandon became the 24th Master Certified Green Professional in the world, a BPI (Building Performance Institute) Building Analyst & Envelope Professional, and Certified Aging In Place Specialist. The same year, Weiss’s company built a first-of-its-kind, Certified Passive House in Chicago. Passive House is the world’s most stringent energy efficiency standard, and WBD exceeded its threshold by 33%.  The Passive House home was also certified for indoor air quality by a new Healthy Home Initiative, and was chosen as part of their pilot phase. In addition, Brandon Weiss became the Education & Green Building Committee Chair at the...

Master Certified Green Professional

Once again, we are raising the bar on green home building.  We are proud to announce that our owner, Brandon Weiss, has received his Master Certified Green Professional Certification (Master CGP).  Brandon is the only person in the state of Illinois to reach this level, and is 1 of only 24 in the entire country. Master CGP is the National Association of Home Builders highest certification for green builders.  This seven day training program is conducted by leading building industry practitioners on the construction or renovation of a high-performance home.  The curriculum includes techniques that incorporate energy, water and resource efficiency, improved indoor environmental quality, lot and site development, and home owner education (always keeping cost-effectiveness in mind). This designation requires at least five years of green building experience, as well as additional training focusing heavily on building science, green project management, and scheduling.  It also requires that the builder has completed at least three certified green projects.  The certified projects must be recognized by national green building programs such as LEED for Homes or NAHB Green Building Standard.  It does not recognize local green building certifications or energy only programs such as Energy Star. “We have been dedicated to green building since our inception in 2005”, said Brandon Weiss.  We have continually taken classes to further our green building knowledge, and continue to gain green building project experience.  I was especially excited about the depth of building science classes required for this certification because that has become a passion of mine.  Building science is what will make a house function properly as a system, and is the true...

A First in the World: An Award Winning Icon

Weiss Building & Development LLC has done something never yet achieved in construction.  We have completed the World’s First LEED Platinum & NAHB Green Building Program Emerald remodel.  This is the first remodeled house ever to achieve the highest green certification from both the US Green Building Council and the National Association of Home Builders.  We are always trying to push the envelope in green building, and have done something truly remarkable with this home.  Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that we have done this for $62 per square foot. The main goal of this project was to remodel a home to a high level of green certification while ensuring occupant health, energy efficiency, durability, water efficiency, environmental responsibility / sustainability, and a low maintenance home.  This home achieved this and much more.  A secondary goal was to keep the homes historical qualities intact, and bring some of the original architectural details inside the house to the additions that were done throughout its life. We searched for a while until we found a home that had good sewer and water connection, was structurally sound, but needed to be completely gutted.  We found this at 336 Wabash in Elgin.  Instead of doing what the typical house flipper is doing these days with the foreclosure market, we wanted to ensure a quality home for whoever purchases it from us.  We did not want to do the typical drywall repair, paint, carpet, new cabinets, and new plumbing fixtures, while leaving all the problems the house had covered up with cosmetic changes.  We wanted to take this house down to the bones,...

2011 National & Local Awards

2011 Awards 2011 was an exciting year for us at Weiss Building & Development.  Our passion and dedication to green building has paid off with several awards.  It is with great pride that we announce our 2011 National and Regional awards. Chicagoland Area Awards: 2011 Northern Illinois Home Builders Association Remodeler of The Year Gold Key Award for Best Green Remodel of the Year Gold Key Award for Best Remodel of The Year Under $200,000 Our top local award in 2011 was the Northern Illinois Home Builders Association Remodeler of The Year Award.  It was with great pride that we accepted this prestigious local award honoring our commitment to our craft. The Key awards are building / remodeling awards that are given out by the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago.  The Gold Key Award is the highest award given for each category.  Being a green builder/remodeler, we were very proud to have won the award for Best Green Remodel.  Just as exciting was the fact that we won the award for Best Remodel, and that a green home was recognized as the best remodel of the year.  We are advocates of green building, and whatever we can do to raise the bar in construction makes us proud. National Awards: 2011 Best In American Living Award (BALA) for Best Whole House Remodel Under $250,000 (Silver) The BALA awards are given out by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) at the International Builders Show, which was in Orlando, FL.  BALA recognizes outstanding achievement by builders and design professionals in all sectors of the residential housing industry with judges representing...

Weiss Building & Development wins ICON Award 2010 for Best Bathroom Remodel

Weiss Building & Development LLC is proud to announce that we have won the ICON Award of Excellence for Best Bathroom Remodel of 2010. This is the second year in a row we have won in the ICON Awards. The bathroom remodel consisted of updating the look of an outdated bathroom that was quite cluttered. We opened it up, and achieved the customer goal of a European spa like master bathroom. We were able to achieve this with a budget of less than $25,000. The bathroom remodel was completed using the USGBC’s ReGreen guidelines to make the space a healthier, more energy efficient, and more water efficient bathroom. We started by deconstructing the current bathroom. The toilet, complete vanity, tub, and tub deck face were given to another local rehabber that reused them in a gut rehab job 6 miles away. The walls were opened up behind the shower so that we could remediate a mold and mildew issue. We treated that and reinsulated the wall. We then framed a new shower pan and shower seat. We installed a vinyl shower base over the floor threshold over the shower seat and up the wall 18”. A lightweight concrete shower pan was poured, and then we installed a waterproofing membrane over the entire floor, threshold, shower seat, and up the wall 36”. Since the bathroom was on an exterior wall, we installed a radiant floor heating system to help warm the tiles in cooler weather conditions. To also assist in indoor air quality, moisture issues, and energy efficiency we installed a new bathroom exhaust fan, and vented that to the...

Brandon Weiss Elected to Serve as HBA Liaison For USGBC Illinois Residential Green Building Committee

Brandon Weiss, owner of Weiss Building & Development LLC, was recently elected to serve on the USGBC Illinois Chapter’s Residential Green Building Committee. He was voted to become the Residential Green Building Committees liaison to the various home builders associations in Illinois. Brandon Weiss has been a member of this committee, but recently wanted to increase his involvement. This role will provide him with the opportunity to help cross promote educational opportunities for builders and the public to learn more about the science of green building. “I am honored to have been voted to this position within the committee by my peers, and look forward to helping the committee expand its reach and influence in the new year”, said Brandon Weiss. The Residential Green Building Committee develops educational content for programs and provides training for advocates & experts specifically for the residential building market and homeowners.* *From USGBC Illinois...

Composting: Recycling Nature

Recycling is a great start to living a greener lifestyle, and helping to preserve the environment.  However, people should not get complacent and comfortable that they are doing enough by simply recycling.  Composting is the next step to helping reduce your overall impact on the environment.  Organic materials and table scraps make up 30% of the waste sent to our local landfills.  This entire sum of waste can be easily diverted in to something that can actually help to save you money as well.  Finished compost is even more nutritious to use as a soil amendment than other fertilizers, helps retain moisture in soil, and buffers the PH levels.  Even if you dispose of your food scraps in a garbage disposal, you are still wasting water and increasing the energy needed to treat your sewage water at your local wastewater treatment facility. To start your compost pile, you have several options.  There are many options for indoor or under sink compost bins that you can use to fill with table scraps an empty into your outdoor composter once a week or so.  Another option is to simply have a compost pile somewhere in your yard, or an outdoor churning bin.  The factors that affect composting are oxygenation, temperature, water content, surface area, and carbon nitrogen ratios: * Oxygen is required by the compost for respiration by the aerobic inhabitants of the pile. * Ventilation, wind, and occasional mixing of the compost will help eliminate the foul odors that may be produced by the anaerobic inhabitants. * Optimal temperatures for composting are between 85 to 135 degrees.  Any temperatures below this...

EPA Certified Renovator

We are pleased to announce that we have taken and passed the course necessary to become an EPA Certified Renovator.  This course, EPA Lead Safety for Renovation, Repair, and Painting, will be a required course for any contractor who replaces windows or disturbs more than 6 square feet of a wall in one room of a house older than 1978.  This new law was passed to enforce the proper technique of disturbing lead paint, and how to properly clean it up. Even small amounts of lead are extremely poisonous, and can lead to an array of undesirable and potentially fatal health conditions.  This is especially a concern for children whose developing bodies could be forever harmed, or under-developed.  It is the responsibility of any contractor to know what type of project they are undertaking, and take the proper precautions to complete their work in a safe manner for themselves and their customers.  It is equally imperative that homeowners themselves become aware of the fact that lead paint does exist in older homes, and that they should research the background of their contractor to know if they are qualified to work on their home. The new law deals with educating the homeowner, testing the work site, preparing the workspace, donning the appropriate apparel (jumpsuit with hood, respirator, gloves), entering and leaving the work space correctly, cleaning during construction, using the right tools, cleaning post construction, and cleaning verification.  This is definitely a process that will require re-educating a quarter million contractors, which is why all homeowners should check the certifications of their remodeler. You can read about these regulations and...