City formally breaks ground on ‘312 RiverRun’ pedestrian trail

After years of planning, city leaders finally met this week to officially break ground on an elevated pedestrian and cyclist path for the Chicago River’s North Branch. Formally renamed the 312 RiverRun, the upcoming trail will extend the North Branch riverwalk from Horner Park to Clark Park and California Park. Spanning nearly two miles, the trail will connect the Irving Park, Albany Park, North Center, and Avondale communities in a similar fashion that the 606 trail has done for the Bucktown, Logan Square, and Humboldt Park neighborhoods.

According to the city, the new 312 RiverRun will become the longest pedestrian bridge in Chicago. It will stretch 1,000 feet in length and at its widest points will be 16 feet wide, allowing for room for runners, pedestrians, and cyclists to use simultaneously. And because it does not cross major roadways, the city suggests that it will be safe and accessible for users.

The city does not mention an exact figure for the project, though it does indicate that the RiverRun is just one component of the $800 million Building on Burnham program which is focused on lakefront and Chicago River improvements. Designed by Epstein Global, renderings reveal a winding path with lights and barriers for all-season use.

The upcoming pedestrian bridge is expected to be completed by late 2018.

Porches Are Making a Comeback

More new homes are coming equipped with front porches. Sixty-five percent of new single-family homes started in 2016 included a porch, according to a Census data analysis from the National Association of Home Builders. It’s only the second time since tracking began that new single-family homes with porches have moved back above 65 percent. For comparison, in 2005, 54 percent of new homes had porches.

Certain regions of the U.S. are showing a higher preference for porches. For example, the East-South-Central region of the U.S. had the highest share of new homes started in 2016 with porches at 86 percent.

The Census data from the Survey of Construction report does not indicate much information about the look of the porches. However, the NAHB reports that the Annual Builder Practices Survey, conducted by Home Innovation Research Labs, shows that front porches on new homes tend to be more common than side porches. Also, most new home porches are open rather than screened.

The average size of a front porch on a new home is about 60 square feet, according to the report. The materials used often tend to be concrete and treated wood. However, some regions—like the Mountain and Pacific areas of the U.S.—tend to favor redwood over treated wood for their front porches.

Homeowners encouraged to have energy audits done

Energy inefficiency in homes can lead to higher bills and lower quality of life.

Local energy professionals are advising homeowners to have an energy audit completed to find and alleviate those problems.

“It’s our No. 1 suggestion when people call and want to do something about lowering their usage,” Murtaugh said of conducting a home energy audit.

Greg Ernst, energy consultant for G.A. Ernst & Associates, conducted an energy audit of a house Murtaugh owns on Wednesday.

“It’s going to be helpful for knowing what we need to do when we remodel,” said Murtaugh, who added he learned there might be a need for radon mitigation, and he discussed addressing ventilation in the house.

“This is the No.1 thing you can do to find out what’s going on,” he said.

Ernst said audits include evaluating gas and electricity use, determining costs associated with heating and cooling homes, refrigeration costs and deciding whether appliances for heating and cooling should be replaced.

An inspection of the building is conducted to determine airtight and insulation levels.

“It’s kind of a three-pronged approach, starting with the equipment, moving on to thermal envelope and then durability — durability being ventilation,” Ernst said.

There are multiple reasons to conduct a home audit, he said, including improving home comfort and the home’s durability, as well as reducing energy costs.

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Second Chicago Architecture Biennial officially kicks off

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Architecture Biennial Artistic Directors Sharon Johnson and Mark Lee joined together to formally kick off the multi-month exhibition that will showcase the work of dozens of architects and designers from around the globe. With a theme of “Make New History,” this year’s Biennial will explore the role history plays in making new architecture.

Similar to the 2015 edition, this year’s Biennial will call the Chicago Cultural Center its home base. The Biennial will not only display works and exhibits from designers in the building, but the event will transform the Chicago Cultural Center itself by featuring several so-called legacy installations throughout the building’s interior atrium, corridors, and arcade.

In addition to its main hub at the Chicago Cultural Center, the Biennial will feature six neighborhood “anchor sites” outside of downtown. They include the Beverly Arts Center in the Beverly community, the DePaul Art Museum in Lincoln Park, the DuSable Museum of African American History in Washington Park, the Hyde Park Art Center in Hyde Park, the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen, and the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture in Humboldt Park.

This year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial launch aligns with EXPO Chicago, Navy Pier’s annual art and design convention. Running through January 7, 2018, the Biennial will feature 141 participants from 20 countries and will showcase the work from local artists and designers such as Ania Jaworska, Daniel Everett, David Schalliol, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Marshall Brown, Norman Kelley, and many others. The full list of firms and artists participating in this year’s edition can be seen on the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s website.