It's Homearama 2016 Cincinnati time again and I don't feel well. Not that there is anything wrong with Homearama, but I don't like it and wonder if I'm alone. I enquired if any of them were LEED Certified but I got no answer. The last time I went the sales person didn't know anything about the possible LEED Certification of the homes that were trying to get certified.
It all starts with the placement of the homes on the street. Why don't they face the sun and take advantage of passive solar heat gain? You can save 15 to 25% doing that along with proper window areas and placement. But it doesn't start with the orientation; it starts with a road to nowhere. Dead end streets, although treasured for privacy and solitude; playgrounds don't belong on the street, traffic does, and it should connect the neighborhood to community services. You may not find 10 community services within 1/2 mile of Homearama.
Next is the landscaping, turf grass isn't good for any ecology and should only be sparingly used for what it is, an outdoor carpet. The rest of the yard should be planted in native and adaptive plants that encourage Monarch Butterflies and bees. There should be plants that are food for song birds, a water source and shelter for small animals to hide. In 13 years we have replanted our entire grass yard favored by the previous owner and now shade our two story facade so much we won't need external shades this year. June 20th is the solstice.
At least most of the homes have concrete driveways that reduce heat island effects, but that doesn't carry over to the roofs, that are too dark.
Who would have thought that the quaint window awnings you saw when you were a child were good for the environment? You can put all the coatings you want on glass, but they are never as good as shading the exterior. Too bad there is no Italian or French style that uses exterior shading. They did use exterior shutters but don't get me started. If you look hard, you'll see them in Over-The-Rhine, an 1850s Cincinnati downtown neighborhood.
I take a deep breath and walk inside the front door. Suddenly the smell of paint, stains, carpet and caulk overwhelms me. This one isn't going for LEED. At least the appliances are energy efficient. The industry has done it without being asked. You can't say that about the lighting industry. Finally, I was able to find a warm LED lamp to replace the 40-watt bulbs in our house. But they have been available for 5 years. My E17 base hasn't. Open plans and wide doorways are more common now along with age-in-place floor layouts with a bedroom on the first floor. Did you see the dog door flap as you shut the front door? Good, the air sealing is working. The Greater Cincinnati MLS database has some new feature check boxes that include such things as blower-door tests that verify high-quality air sealing.
Why is it that unpersonal decorative items like fake books and artifacts say less about the owners of the home than if there were no owners at all? No promotion of regional materials can be found, in fact it's sad that they are proud of Chinese tile and Italian marble. Sure they have a place, but not as over used and cheap as white wash. I know of no new homes that appropriately show off its materials. It's just not on the style radar yet.
Bedrooms, media rooms, man caves and walk-in closets share a predictable over sized style and lack of meaning in the decoratives and fixtures. What should they be? I don't know, but I think they would be more entertaining if they had been salvaged from some similar lavish home that had to be torn down just because it could be.
If you go, I hope you enjoy the tours. If you would like to tour some other homes that have a different story, join the South West Ohio Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and you can tour a select group of Green Homes with a friend. Each one, young and old have a rich story to tell even if they aren't LEED Certified. The next tour is September 17, 2016; 10 am till Noon – A “Quonset Roof” style barn conversion with geo-thermal and radiant heat.
Honestly, I probably won't go to Homearama this year, unless one of them is going for LEED Platinum. But they won't get the unlimited 5-year extension on a 10-year tax abatement on the structure as they would in the city of Cincinnati.