Association Campaigns to Stop Bungling Bungalows

We’ve all seen them: Classic Chicago bungalows with “pop out” roof additions that don’t come close to matching the architectural design and distinction of these classic homes, and frequently are lower quality than the original house.   

Since 2016, the Chicago Bungalow Association (CBA) has been campaigning against what they’ve termed “bungled bungalows,” targeting developers who tear off the homes’ upstairs level to build additions that CBA says “destroy the architectural and aesthetic value of homes and streetscapes, as well as neighbors’ property values.”  

The campaign – called #StopThePop – spread awareness about alternative additions that could put an end to what the Association sees as the destruction of Chicago’s iconic homes. The campaign got a lot of attention on social media as well as in Crain’s Chicago Business and the Chicago Tribune as well as on WGN Radio and WTTW’s Chicago Tonight. 

“Because there are sensible alternatives, we believe pop-tops and all of their consequences are preventable,” said CBA Executive Director Mary Ellen Guest. 

#StopThePop is still getting attention, and after two years of work has unveiled the Bungalow Expansion Project  and Expanding Your Space guide on their website, www.chicagobungalow.org. The Bungalow Expansion Project design schemes were created in partnership with AIA Chicago residential architects. The project features detailed information on projects that include system upgrades, finishing basements, adding dormers and additions.  

Each project area offers complete information on how to plan, prepare, complete and even pay for projects that will preserve the integrity of the Chicago bungalow while enhancing its lifestyle opportunities. For example, the finished basement design offers step-by-step instructions for expanding a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom bungalow into a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom bungalow with a basement suite and remodeled first floor kitchen. The project does not change the existing house footprint.  

Exterior alterations call for redoing the back porch to add heat and adding egress windows for the basement. Interior alterations provide a complete list of tasks from adding rooms to widening the staircase, and includes system upgrades, like heating and plumbing. Project considerations cover dealing with basement water issues and meeting Chicago code requirements. Each project includes plans and renderings of the finished project, as well as cost estimates, broken out so homeowners can make informed decisions. 

Each project is designed to enhance the quality of living in the house, and plans provide more affordable options.  

“Our goal is not to tell homeowners what they can and can’t do with their homes,” said CBA Deputy Director Gillian Wiescher, “Rather, we want to educate on sensible attic additions that provide the desired added space while protecting the value of the home and streetscape. We encourage people to expand their spaces, open up kitchens, and finish their basements. That’s the beauty of bungalows. They are adaptable for the modern family.” 

Built between 1910 and 1940, bungalows make up about one-third of the city’s single-family housing stock, with an estimated 80,000 of them existing in dense neighborhood clusters that arc around the city center. During the bungalow building boom, the narrow, one-and-a-half story buildings provided efficient and well-built, yet inexpensive, housing options for many families. Originally purchased with unfinished attics, a growing family had the option to convert the space into a spare bedroom later on. 

When CBA started in 2000, bungalows were not desirable. First time homebuyers discounted them as “grandma’s house.” It’s evident now that bungalows are highly sought after. CBA’s approach is a practical one that developers and homeowners of all socioeconomic levels and geographic locations will benefit from. 

For more information on the Bungalow Expansion Project – Solution to Pop-Tops, as well as a considerable rescources for all aspects of upgrading, maintaining and “greening: bungalows and other vintage homes, visit www.chicagobungalow.org.