By Becky Roozen Published Oct 05, 2004 at 5:13 AM

{image1}The Milwaukee Idea Home (726 W. Bruce St.), a prototype for accessible, affordable and energy-efficient housing in the city, looks like any other house on the block. But its advantageous, and often unseen, characteristics were unveiled as prominent Milwaukee figures gathered at a ribbon cutting ceremony Monday, Oct. 4 to celebrate the home's completion.

The idea was proposed as part of UW-Milwaukee's former chancellor Nancy Zimpher's Milwaukee Idea program and has been in the works ever since.

Mayor Tom Barrett and UWM's Dean of School of Architecture and Urban Planning and City of Milwaukee planner Bob Greenstreet (pictured below right), among others, praised the house for its practicality and called it an example for future Milwaukee-area builders.

"Buildings are not just about bricks and mortar, each one has a story," Greenstreet said. "And the story we have here is not that of architectural excess, but this is the little house that could."

Could what? Well, make the best of natural conditions, make it easy for anyone to get around and save residents plenty of money.

Greenstreet said the house "defies conventions," referring to wheelchair clearance below the sink and stove in the kitchen, a roll-in shower in the bathroom, 36-inch wide doors for clear paths of travel, a movable wall in the first floor bedroom allowing for adaptive floor plan alternatives, porous pavement sidewalks for rain drainage, a rain garden that will reduce the amount of storm water runoff leaving the property and a five-kilowatt fuel cell that provides electricity and winter heating.

{image2}And this "real home and living laboratory," as Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) director Antonio Riley called it, will only cost roughly $100 a year to heat. That's something any homeowner can appreciate.

"We're trying to make urban living more enjoyable and at the same time energy efficient and fair to the environment," said Barrett.

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) commission chair, Dennis M. Grzezinski agreed. "It shows those who'll live here, and those in the surrounding community, how to deal with sustainable living."

This example home is owned and operated by IndependenceFirst and will be used as a transitional residence for those moving from institutional care to their own homes, for the time being. Those involved hope this is the first of many homes like it in Milwaukee and the surrounding area.