The Yannell house
The Yannell house in Chicago. (Photo: Courtesy of Farr Associates. Photographer Christopher Barrett.)

In Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, you may notice a house with v-shaped roofs and a horseshoe layout.

“It’s described as ‘Jetsons’ architecture, so it’s really kind of zippy and very expressive of its environmental function,” says Doug Farr of Farr Associates, the architecture firm that designed the home a little over a decade ago.

He says the client, Michael Yannell, wanted to build an energy-efficient, luxury home.

“He’s done very well in life,” Farr says, “and has ample resources and wanted to send a message to other people at his strata, people of means, to say ‘Don’t build a mega mansion. Dial it down. Build a right-sized house but make it a net-zero model.’”

In other words, design it to produce as much energy as it consumes.

The house is built to maximize sun exposure. In summer, heat is stored in the soil below the home and used to warm the house in winter. And the v-shaped roofs collect rainwater and hide solar panels.

When first built, the home was touted as the greenest in America.

Farr says it shows that by investing in green building, wealthy people can help pave the way for others.

“When you do,” he says, “you’ll make it easier for everyone else that comes later because it will be that much easier and that much lower in cost.”

Reporting credit: Karen Lewis/ChavoBart Digital Media.