Right now it may look like the shell of a home built more than 100 years ago, but when Scott Sanders is finished with it, the building at 3315 Grand Blvd. in Brookfield will be the village’s first LEED-certified structure and the first home in the village specifically built using sustainable practices.
Sanders, a resident of Brookfield since 2009, calls the renovation of 3315 Grand Blvd. a “greenhab,” the kind of rehab of at-risk suburban housing he’d like to see spread throughout the Chicago area.
“I rescue those homes that have ‘good bones’ in good neighborhoods and create an almost brand-new home that is well-designed, well-built, energy-efficient and affordable,” said Sanders.
The building at 3315 Grand Blvd. was in need of rescue. Built around 1904, it served as a combination grocery store and apartment for more than 50 years. The grocery store changed hands several times through the years and appears to have vanished sometime after 1958, when it was known as M&S Food Shoppe.
In the 1960s, the building was converted into a two-story, single-family home. But in recent years, it fell on hard times. By the time Sanders was able to buy it out of foreclosure for $65,500 in July, the house had suffered the effects of being vacant for more than a year. A water pipe on the second floor burst last winter and flooded the rear half of the house, damaging floor joists and floors.
“It took six months to get to the closing,” said Sanders. “It’s an illustration of the foreclosure process. No one knows what’s going on with these homes.”
The Grand Boulevard building is the test run for Sanders’ new business venture, BrightLeaf Homes, which he founded in February.
Sanders said he decided to start the “mission-driven business” after working in the construction industry in Washington, D.C., for a company that built tract housing.
“I saw the bad side of the coin, how inefficient they were in energy use and how much waste there was in construction and design.”
Inspired by the work of Postgreen Homes in Philadelphia, Sanders started BrightLeaf homes as a way to reclaim the many homes abandoned in foreclosure during the real estate crisis. By rehabbing them following sustainable building practices, Sanders could “have an impact on the community and environment and do what I love doing.”
In July, Sanders began demolition both inside and outside the home. After evicting a family of raccoons from the garage and a colony of honeybees and bats from the house, he gutted the home, leaving the original wood frame only.
In addition, he was forced to replace the floor joists on the rear half of the home because of water damage, which increased costs somewhat. Initially, he hoped to rehab the home for $100,000; now he’s shooting for $150,000.
When he’s done, the house will appear to be a brand-new four-bedroom, three-bathroom home with a completely accessible first floor. The house will also be hyper-energy-efficient.
According to Sanders, most homes in Brookfield have average “R-values” (a measure of insulation effectiveness) of zero for walls, and 13 for attics. When the renovation of this home is complete, said Sanders, the walls will be R-31 and the attic will be R-60.
That, he said, will translate into combined gas and electricity bills averaging less than $100 per month.
“It boils down to lower utility bills for homeowners and lower maintenance costs,” Sanders said.
Eventually, he’d like to be able to do four such rehab projects per year and convince people of the value of energy-efficient homes.
The project also has the support of the village of Brookfield’s Department of Building and Planning.
Keith Sbiral, the village’s assistant manager and building director, said having a LEED-certified building (short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a designation granted by the U.S. Green Building Council for projects that meet their standards) is important.
“LEED certification is what public buildings should strive for, and it’s a good way to look at construction in general,” Sbiral said. “In the last decade or so, construction became disposable.”
In addition, the complete rehab of the building using higher-than-average building practices is a benefit to the community.
“That house has been a property maintenance problem for a couple of years,” said Sbiral. “Having a nice, cleaned up and inhabitable house will be a real plus for the people who live on the block.”