Sunday, April 20, 2014

My Chicago Home's Building Envelope

My Chicago home in the Oriole Park neighborhood was built in the 1950's and still maintains most of it's original construction both inside and out.

This building does not take full advantage of natural light, of course this does depend on the room and time of day. The living room on the ground floor has windows facing north, east, and south. This room in particular is darkest during the mornings and lights up most in early afternoon. The living room could be improved upon in that the only window facing east is very small, as is the one facing south. The biggest window in the front of the house faces north and lets in a fair amount of light, mostly because of it's size. The kitchen located on the same floor is south-west oriented and only receives decent lighting during the afternoons, staying fairly dark in the morning. My kitchen is very small and only has two regular sized windows. Even during the day when it is not clear day, it is difficult to work in the kitchen because most of the counter space is not located directly under a window.

Because of my home's age, it does not manage its temperature as well as it could if improvements were made to the existing heating and air systems. In the winter, this building is heated by furnaces, which I find to be very inefficient at heating larger rooms and maintaining temperature overall. In the summer, we use window air conditioning units my father installs when the first wave of heat hits. Because the units are installed seasonally/temporarily, my father has to install small pieces of insulation to fit the windows width. There is a lot of cold air lost through this poor method.

My house does not have large eaves to help shading in the summer time, however we have two large pine trees located in our backyard. There is also one large maple tree in our front lawn that helps shade the building in the summer. By both the front and side door entrances there is a small porch and awning that also aids in shading the area, mitigating intense heat energy from entering the building through the doors.

Also due to the age of this building, our windows and doors are very old and make for a poorly insulated home. However, my father has just begun replacing these windows one by one. Especially in the winter time, you can feel the cold air seeping through the sealant of the windows. During intense rainfall, our basement is prone to flooding through the basement door and cracks in the foundation.

To conclude, my home could use major improvements to maximize it's use of natural energy. It is necessary to renovate old windows and doors to create a more energy efficient and sustainable home. Although building orientation is only able to be altered at the first stages of building construction, the kinds of windows installed can be beneficial in taking advantage of the existing layout and orientation of the building. Each of the aspects described above can be used as a reference for creating more sustainable building units which ultimately contribute to the larger community's sustainability efforts.

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