Illinois' only 2017 Department of Energy Housing Innovation Award Winner


On October 10th, Scott Sanders, our CEO, flew down to Atlanta for the High Performance Home Summit 2017 to accept BrightLeaf’s third Housing Innovation Award from the Department of Energy.  

BrightLeaf Homes, Winners for Innovation in Custom Homes (Spec). 

"Housing Innovation Award winners represent the top 1% of builders across the country who successfully demonstrate they can meet the federal government's most rigorous specifications for high-performance homes. Zero energy ready homes are designed to provide a whole new level of homeowner experience including ultra-low utility bills, ensured comfort, comprehensive water protection, whole-house fresh air delivery, high-capture filtration, contaminant control, and enhanced durability."
– Sam Rashkin, Chief Architect at DOE's Building Technologies Office

Needless to say, it’s not an easy accomplishment. This isn’t an award based off of votes, or a judges opinion, this is strictly on quality, efficiency, and of course, innovation. We’re honored to be blessed with this recognition and not only are we the only residential builder in the Chicago area to be recognized with this award, but we are the only builder in the state of Illinois.


Read the full press release for the complete list of winners and categories.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Housing Innovation Awards has recognized the very best in innovation on the path to zero energy ready homes.  The Housing Innovation Awards recognize forward-thinking builders for delivering American homebuyers with the home of the future, today. Explore these award winning homes on the Tour of Zero.

So what makes a home a Housing Innovation Award winner and what did we have to do to get there? Let’s take a look.


BrightLeaf took care to ensure the foundation was solid, prevent the possibility of a basement flood, install insulation that was above building code requirements, and select an HVAC system that was efficient in order to last and result in low utility bills over the long run.


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A home that lives, works, and lasts better?

This award-winning home in Brookfield, Illinois is 3,120 square-feet and built to the high performance criteria of the U.S. Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) program.

“We’ve been living in our home a little less than a year now and we have not been disappointed. I think our most expensive gas bill for a 2,100-square-foot home was about $35.”
– Homeowners



  • With deep overhangs, covered porches, and fiber cement siding this Chicago area home is protected from the elements.
  • High-performance insulation system for enhanced quiet and comfort
  • Comprehensive draft protection
  • Fresh air system for cleaner indoor air
  • High-efficiency comfort system
  • Energy Star appliances and advanced LED lighting add to energy savings

Download a detailed case study featuring additional details of this home



Scott gave a timed Pecha Kucha style presentation during the Housing Innovation Award Conference held in Atlanta on October 11th, 2017. The presentation is relatively short at only 7 minutes and was meant to give other high performance home builders in attendance some insight into who BrightLeaf is and how we are continuing to innovate in the building industry. The format of the Pecha Kucha presentation limited Scott to only 20 slides with each slide automatically advancing every 20 seconds without his control. Overall, Scott did an excellent job keeping up with the pace and informing his audience on how BrightLeaf continues to innovate home building!

LET'S TALK ABOUT Building Your Green Construction Home

Want to know more about Zero Energy Ready Homes (ZERH) and how you can start planning to build your own high-performance, custom built, earth-friendly home? Here are some additonal resources to help you on your journey to a healthier future:




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