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Lieutenant governor candidate visits efficiency, history in Ogle County

August 25, 2010

Sheila Simon (from left), Bob Vogl and Sonia at the Kickapoo Nature Center. Photo by Andrea Raila

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

As part of Sheila Simon’s visit to Ogle County, we took her and several guests on a tour of the Kickapoo Nature Center near Oregon, Ill. The building, owned by the Kickapoo-Mud Creek Nature Conservancy, is a model of innovative ideas for energy efficiency in heating and cooling.

Its walls and ceiling are built with SIPS (structurally insulated panels), chip board with up to 10 inches of insulation sandwiched between. With an R value of 49, their insulating level is very high. As an example, we visited Victor and Polly Zaderej’s home one winter night a few years ago to check the indoor temperature. Outdoor temperatures that day had been below zero, yet the interior of the building was nearly 70 degrees.

ICFs (insulated concrete forms) used for below-ground foundation walls provide an R rating of 20.

The effectiveness of the steel roof as a winter heat source is being monitored by Dr. William Miller of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Zaderej, the building designer. Air flowing below the outer roof and blown under the floor by a low-power fan warms the building in winter. Instrumentation measures essential parameters that will provide a model for other efficient new buildings.

Sheila Simon (from left) views the Kickapoo dwelling with Sonia and Bob Vogl. Photo by Andrea Raila

An earth tube constantly brings fresh air into the building. As the outdoor air is drawn through the tube, it becomes the temperature of the surrounding earth—cool in summer and warm in winter, requiring less energy to either raise or lower it to comfortable temperatures.

The display room uses track LED lighting designed by Zaderej for Molex. LEDs use less power than compact fluorescents, which just a few years ago were cutting-edge energy-savers. In addition to their efficiency, LEDs have the advantage of directing the light where it is needed, not diffusing it into the entire room. They also are available across the spectrum, producing close to natural light.

Simon was impressed that sparsely-populated rural Ogle County is home to such cutting-edge developments in energy efficiency.

The building, which will be open for the annual Solar Tour, is surrounded by native prairie plants that provide a vibrant, colorful setting. Conservancy Directors Kent and Kathy Lawrence asked the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and the Prairie Preservation Society of Ogle County (PPSOC) to plan and manage the plantings. Simply Prairies of Ogle County prepared the final design, provided the plants and planted the prairie.

Although the plants are non-hybridized natives, the resulting planting is not a replica of pre-settlement (before the 1830s) prairie, but a more showy prairie garden. Selected species provide visitors a view of several graceful grasses and many dramatic forbs in a relatively small area.

Begun last fall, the Kickapoo prairie looks as though it had been established several years ago. Colorful blooms appear from early spring through late fall. Prairie smoke, a delicate pink, appeared in March, followed by golden alexanders, puccoon and birdsfoot violet. Little bluestem grass waved between the flowers along the entry walk.

Numerous others, including lupine, wild senna, blazing star, brown-eyed susans, purple coneflower, rattlesnake master, cardinal flower, blue lobelia and queen of the prairie bloom throughout the summer. Purple and pink asters, fall’s final glory, are beginning to show their colors.

To conclude the visit, the group drove past the Kickapoo residence with south-facing windows and overhang, trombe wall and native limestone all visible from the lane. Simon recalled her parents’ passive solar home with south-facing windows and overhang. She lived with energy efficiency and understands.

Energy-efficient buildings and native species are some key components of sustainable living.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. The Vogls and the IREA are members of the Environmental Hall of Fame. Dr. Robert Vogl is vice president of Freedom Field, and Dr. Sonia Vogl is a member of Freedom Field’s Executive Committee. The Vogls consult on energy efficiency, renewable energy and green building. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are active in preserving natural areas and are retired professors from Northern Illinois University. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the Aug. 25-31, 2010 issue

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