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New all-electric apartment building pioneers sustainable living in Chicago

Special to DCR

In a groundbreaking move towards sustainable living, a new 15-unit apartment building has emerged on the Near West Side, setting a new standard in construction practices. Developed by Darshan Desai, in his debut venture into new construction, this innovative project signifies a paradigm shift by eschewing traditional gas connections and capitalizing on financial incentives. Situated in an Enterprise Zone in Chicago, Desai’s decision to construct all-electric homes underscores a commitment to both environmental stewardship and operational efficiency.

AprilAire fresh air ventilator; living room and kitchen; a corner bedroom; heat pumps on the roof; and mechanical closet showing the air handler, fresh air ventilator, and hybrid heat pump water heater.

Preferring the simplicity of all-electric operations, Desai explained his rationale: “As a long-term operator, the goal was to streamline operations by eliminating unnecessary variables. Introducing additional utilities not only complicates initial installation but also adds to long-term management overheads.” Moreover, Desai highlighted the disproportionate customer charges often associated with gas bills, regardless of usage, a factor that motivated his pursuit of all-electric solutions.

With a focus on tenant comfort, Desai integrated state-of-the-art amenities into each apartment, including individual Champion heat pumps for heating and cooling, Energy Star-rated casement windows by ClimateGuard to optimize insulation, and smart fresh air ventilators for enhanced air quality. Additionally, tenants will benefit from non-combustible induction stovetops, promoting both safety and efficient energy consumption.

Wayne Beals, a real estate broker specializing in all-electric homes, commended Desai’s initiative, asserting that “all-electric living represents an upgrade in multiple facets—health, simplicity, safety, economy, and comfort.”

Darsh, the developer, standing inside the “doghouse” leading to the shared roof deck.

However, transitioning to an all-electric building posed unique challenges in design and construction, necessitating meticulous planning to mitigate seasonal limitations. Desai emphasized the importance of strategic timelines, particularly to avoid costly measures such as portable heating during winter construction phases.

Leveraging ComEd’s Electric Homes program, which offers substantial incentives for all-electric buildings meeting stringent standards, Desai successfully navigated certification requirements, culminating in a significant financial reward. Despite the complexities involved, Desai remains optimistic, offering advice to fellow builders embarking on similar ventures.

Reflecting on the journey, Desai expressed satisfaction in witnessing the positive reception from prospective tenants, noting their enthusiasm for the project’s forward-thinking approach and high-performance attributes. As interest continues to grow, Desai’s pioneering efforts stand as a testament to the viability and desirability of sustainable construction practices in the modern era.

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