Traditionally, the bi-annual Frederick Law Olmsted Society Housewalk has been a showcase of grand homes, fine architecture and artistic interior design. Often, the walk has featured the village’s historic Victorian structures, designed by some of the period’s renowned architects.
This year things are different.
While the Victorian era is still represented, this year’s housewalk features home built as recently as 2010. What binds them together is their owners’ commitment to sustainability.
“Sustainability: Then and Now” is the theme of the 2014 housewalk, which steps off Sunday, June 1 and will run from noon to 5 p.m. The program features nine Riverside homes, all of which approach the idea of sustainability in different and imaginative ways — both inside and out.
It’s an approach that fit in perfectly with the mission of the Frederick Law Olmsted Society, a local organization dedicated to the preservation of the great landscape architect’s vision of Riverside.
“Olmsted was really the father of sustainability,” said Mary Judy, who along with Aberdeen Marsh-Ozga heads up the society’s housewalk committee. “It was so terribly important to him.”
In a village where much of the housing stock is more than 70 years old, the housewalk committee wanted to showcase not just architecture — though that’s certainly a part of this year’s tour — but ways for that architecture to combine with a contemporary wish to conserve water, create energy in more sustainable fashion, and in the long run, save money.
“This puts information in the hands of people who are homeowners already, who don’t know what changes they can make to their homes to make them more viable in the future,” said Marsh-Ozga.
Once the committee settled on the theme, Riverside homeowners who had taken on sustainability for their own properties “came out of the woodwork to share their homes,” according to Marsh-Ozga.
Because the focus is on sustainability and the technology that supports it, this year’s housewalk is a much more technical affair. In addition to house captains at each of the homes, there will also be a house expert (including the architects that designed the systems and buildings) on hand to give more detailed information about sustainable features.
Each home will also be outfitted with display boards illustrating how the features work.
Among the homes on this year’s tour is the Gear-Foulkes House on Addison Road, an 1888 Victorian whose owners have incorporated several green features, including a permeable driveway to help manage storm runoff and an addition where window and skylight placement decreases the need for electric lighting during the day. In addition, the house is now equipped for solar power.
The Haugland House, a 1926 Dutch colonial on Delaplaine Road, has a full yard that is an organic rain garden crossed with permeable paths to help control storm runoff. Meanwhile, the O’Brien-Rubio House, a 1929 Georgian revival home on Eastgrove Road, tackled the issue of backyard flooding with an 2,500-gallon underground water detention vault, which uses a pump system to use that runoff for irrigating the garden, which employs swales, rain gardens and permeable pavers to further aid in storm runoff management.
Also on Addison Road, the Jansen House, a 1923 Dutch Colonial, showcases a do-it-yourself solar panel installation, an electric vehicle charging station in the garage and an organic victory garden.
For an all-out approach to green building philosophy, the Foley House on Selborne Road is a very traditional-looking building that, nevertheless, employs materials and design elements that meet LEED standards.
One of the more interesting uses of green technology can be found at the Karasek-LaMantia House on Southcote Road, where the 1924 craftsman-style bungalow employs state-of-the-art geothermal heating and air-conditioning and rainwater harvesting technology.
The tour features perhaps one of Riverside’s first efforts at recycling — the McDougall House on Southcote Road, which originally was built as a model steel home for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair and trucked to Riverside afterwards.
In addition to tours of the homes themselves, this year’s housewalk also will host a Celebration of Sustainability at Centennial Park in downtown Riverside throughout the event.
The area will not only serve as the will call area for people to pick up their tickets, but will include booths with information from Nicor and Republic Services about their respective energy efficiency and recycling programs.
And Centennial Park will be the tour’s “green transportation” hub, where at least two electric cars will ferry tourists to homes on the tour, and where, if you’re in the mood to get to the homes under your own power, you can rent a bike or a tandem to get around.
“Our intention is to hit on as many aspects of sustainability as possible,” said Judy. “And, we have all the resources right here.”