The Lantow Lofts

The Lantow Lofts
In Rockford, Illinois, Brad Roos walks to work every day. Moving to a home closer to his office a few years back was part of his plan to reduce his own carbon footprint. But he didn’t stop there. There was one driving condition behind his new home in a structure he helped build: it had to be green.
Roos is Executive Director of Zion Development, a nonprofit Christian community development organization formed in 1982 as the result of outreach programs at nearby Zion Lutheran Church. Zion Development worked with several community partners to renovate an existing apartment building and create seven upscale, urban, market-rate condos called The Lantow Lofts (pictured right), where Roos lives.
The condos were constructed with reused materials. The existing elevator was resawn into pieces of decorative lumber peppered throughout the building. Old lumber also became useful in the new downstairs coffee bar and in building new furniture.
The building utilizes 10 solar thermal panels on the roof, geothermal heating and cooling, and foam and fiberglass insulation in the walls. As a result, loft home buyers and tenants enjoy utility bills that are significantly lower than most homes.
Before moving to the Lantow Lofts, Roos lived 1.25 miles from his office. He now lives two blocks from his office and walks to work, all of which helped reduce his carbon footprint by 50 percent.
“Living where I do ministry is part of my strategy,” Roos says. “These are my neighbors. It’s easier to love your neighbors if you actually live with them,” he said, referring to people living in Zion’s affordable housing units in the neighborhood. Zion promotes mixed-income neighborhoods in an effort to deemphasize socioeconomic status and bring people together.
For every month in 2009, Roos read all his meters for water, gas, and electricity use on the first of each month. He used power company calculations to determine that his average monthly energy bill, combining gas and electricity use (including service fees), worked out to $68.
The energy-efficient systems in the lofts yield about a 50-percent reduction in electricity use in the summer and a 40-percent reduction in natural gas (for heat) during the winter as compared to a building without such systems. Another key resource-saver is the system of tankless water heaters in both residential and first-floor commercial units: a little white box in a unit’s utility closet that doesn’t store hot water but produces it on demand.
“Those of us who try to live by our faith and who have responsibility for resources like this—buildings and facilities—we have a moral and ethical obligation to look at the impact we have on the earth,” Roos says. “For social ministry organizations and other organizations where faith is held up as a high standard, we have a leadership responsibility. We have to think about the ‘triple bottom line:’ Is a project financially sensible? Is it socially responsible? And is it environmentally sustainable?”

Lutherans Restoring Creation (LRC) is a grassroots movement within the ELCA seeking to foster care for God's good creation in all expressions of the church's life and mission. LRC is supported by grants from ELCA World Hunger and the Lutheran Community Foundation.