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How Would You Like To Generate Power For Your Neighborhood?

Sep 8, 2018 3:29:19 PM / by Chuck Lohre

Lohre Marketing and Advertising Design Author Graphic

That’s exactly the path the Russo-Butler home is on. Their energy bill was $21 in January 2019 (one of the coldest on record) and that’s before they install their solar panels. 

A major reason the home’s HVAC is so efficient is that they are on track to get 32.5 out of 34 max points for the system! I remarked that an electric car may be in their future.

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Dr. Veronica Russo is a dermatologist and I toured the home recently with her husband Dr. Chris Butler, an asthma specialist. Chris and Veronica met at Michigan State University during medical school and after long years of residency living in apartments, they both landed in Cincinnati to start their careers and build a new home. It’s been a three-year process. They are the proud parents of three children, two of whom are twins.

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Building a home is a tall order for someone that hasn’t done it before. “You don’t know what you don’t know,” Chris said as the young couple decided to build. The project was too complicated for the first builder they selected and after much was completed, they switched to Eagle Custom Homes & Remodeling. Doug Feagles and his son Stephen had the experience building a LEED home eight years ago. Doug is a certified Master Builder by the National Association of Home Builders.  

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The Feagles rearranged the entry, added two baths and egress to a few rooms so they could be counted as bedrooms. For a more than 5,000-square- foot home, six bedrooms require fewer LEED points to achieve LEED Platinum, which was an important additional five years of tax abatement on the structure. Another twist in the design process was the deselection of clear-cut tropical mahogany originally specified for the home. Non-Forest Stewardship Certified wood isn’t allowed when you build LEED. If it had been used, the home could not be certified. FSC wood is selectively harvested and doesn’t destroy the forest’s eco-system.

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One of the toughest challenges was that the home is on an almost unbelievable 40-degree grade, the site drops 50 feet in a 75-foot depth. The work had to start at the backside with foundations, drainage, 2000-gallon stormwater storage tank, and then the geothermal wells under driveway which works its way toward the narrow entrance at the street.

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In between, there is everything they wanted. A large great room for living, dining and kitchen overlooking a pool and dramatic natural stone steps winding around the side of the home’s large patio on the floor below. And don’t forget the to-die-for media room and workout room with a bistro bar area in between. In the end, the home is an amazing accomplishment, which will pay back the owners in super low energy bills and superior comfort for their growing family and generations to come.

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The design was done with Veronica’s inspiration for modern American vernacular. Details such as the hand-hewn barn beams in the great room to the decorative wrought iron light fixtures, exemplify the theme throughout the home.  

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The only thing they are waiting on to finish their LEED application is the number of solar panels required to be installed on their roof which is pitched exactly to the correct angle for maximum performance. You can see for yourself how many they needed on October 19, 2019, from 10 am until Noon when the Ohio Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council is having a tour of the home. Go to https://green-cincinnati.com/southwest-ohio-usgbc-chapter-green-residential-committee-and-greater-cincinnati-green-home-tours/ for more information.


Cincinnati history of tax abatements

Since 2002, the city of Cincinnati has granted a 10-year tax abatement on structures. In 2007, the city added an additional five years to the tax abatement for those receiving LEED Certification. In 2011, the tax abatement for LEED became a bit more layered and difficult. Now, owners must achieve LEED Silver to receive a tax break on the first $285,000 of the structure’s value. LEED Gold has a limit of $565,000, and it’s unlimited if you achieve LEED Platinum. Because of the tax abatement, nearly every new home in Cincinnati is LEED Certified and builders have become quite familiar with how to do it cost-effectively.

Certification level decision story

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LEED for Homes

The LEED for Homes Rating System provides a basis for quantifying the benefits of green homes, thereby facilitating the widespread construction of more sustainable homes. One of the first steps in planning a LEED home is to adjust the certification thresholds based on the material and energy impacts. All else being equal, a large home consumes more materials and energy than a small house over its lifecycle. LEED compensates for these impacts by adjusting the thresholds for each award level. Thresholds for smaller-than-average homes are lowered, and thresholds for larger-than-average homes are raised. A home’s threshold for LEED Gold may be 72 points. A 4,500-sq.-ft. home with five bedrooms would be about 85 points.

In the end, the homeowner will have a well built and third-party certified home. Passing the blower door test alone is significant. Blower door tests are used to prove the air sealing quality of the construction. During the test the home is depressurized to -50 Pascal and measurements are recorded throughout the home to verify that outside air isn’t leaking into the home at a rate higher than required. It proves the home won’t be drafty and uncomfortable. Contrary to those builders who tell homeowners that homes need to breathe for fresh air, it is much better to control the ventilation rather than allowing shoddy construction of leaky vapor barriers to supply fresh air to the home.

The LEED Certification system is broadly categorized into five equally important parts that demonstrate measurable environmental benefits: Site, Water, Energy, Materials, and Indoor Environment Quality. The following is a review of the features of this home according to the LEED for Homes system.

Prerequisites include building above the 100-year floodplain, not habitat for endangered species, built no closer than 100 feet to water or wetlands, land that wasn’t a public park and land that doesn’t have prime, unique or soils of state significance. Excavated topsoil was reused; runoff was controlled, so it didn’t contaminate stormwater sewers or erode hillsides.

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Innovation and Design Process

The Innovation and Design Process section of LEED includes Integrated Project Planning, which maximizes opportunities for integrated, cost-effective adoption of green design and construction strategies. A Preliminary Rating is arrived at as early a practical, they conducted a preliminary LEED for Homes meeting, with the participation of the key members of the project team and Green Building Consultants (the LEED for Homes Certification Provider) to target the level of LEED, select credits and assign the parties accountable. Typically this includes holding monthly meetings to review project status, introduce new team members to the project goals, discuss problems encountered, formulate solutions, review responsibilities and identify next steps. The Integrated Project Team is formed to maximize the opportunities for integrated, cost-effective adoption of green design and construction practices.

A big help with this is that at least one principal member is a Professional Credentialed with respect to LEED for Homes.

Durability Management Process

The Innovation and Design Process section also includes the Durability Management Process, which promotes durability of the high-performance building enclosure, its components and systems through appropriate design, materials selection, and construction practices. Prior to construction, the project team will identify risks, responses regarding pests, storm damage and moisture control measures.

The home’s plans include the following features: No paper-backed backer board or carpet in tub, shower and spa areas, no carpet within three feet of the entryway, drain and drain pans for tank water heaters and clothes washers in or over living areas, and exhausting conventional clothes dyers directly to outdoors.

Durability Management requires that the builder have a quality management process in place to ensure installation. A third-party verified these durability conditions.

Innovation or regional design

Incorporating additional green design and construction features with measurable environmental benefits.

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Location and Linkages

Location and Linkages include site selection, which is a very important aspect of sustainable homes. This home isn’t in a floodplain or built within 100 feet of water or wetlands. The infill site with existing infrastructure didn’t replace prime farmland or parkland and build on habitat or threatened or endangered species. Excavated topsoil was reused; runoff was controlled, so it didn’t contaminate stormwater sewers or erode hillsides.

Preferred location guidelines encourage the building of LEED homes near or within existing communities. This project was an infill site, which means at least 75 percent of the perimeter immediately borders previously developed land. It was built on a previously developed lot and uses Existing Infrastructure because it is within a half mile of existing water and sewer lines.

Community Resources / Transit

Community Resources / Transit require it to locate close to basic resources such as arts and entertainment center, bank, convenient store, daycare, fire station, cleaner, library, pharmacy, places of worship and schools. This homes achieved Extensive community resources / transit because it is within one-quarter mile of seven, one-half mile of eleven and 60 transit rides per weekday.

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Sustainable Sites

Although the focus of green building is typically on the built structures located on a site, the design of the site and its natural elements can have a significant environmental impact. Site clearing and earth moving can contribute to considerable runoff, leading to soil erosion and alteration of natural drainage patterns both on and off-site. The home utilized Erosion Controls During Construction.

The Minimizing Disturbed Area of Site credit is automatically granted to high-density construction, in recognition of the fact that compact development enables communities to set aside land for conservation. They placed the home to minimize drainable pattern changes, scheduled construction in phases to minimize disturbance and clearly marked areas that are not to be disturbed. Maintaining vegetation in those areas.

Landscaping

The Sustainable Sites category of credits includes no invasive plants, basic landscape design, limiting & non-conventional turf, and drought tolerant plants such as Russian sage, lavender, black-eyed susan, hellebore, hosta and arborvitae. Since the provision and distribution of potable water is costly and energy intensive, particularly during dry periods, a more sensible strategy is to design landscaping that requires less potable water.

Local Heat Island Effects

Local heat island effect are reduced by locating trees or other plantings to provide shading for at least 50% of sidewalks, patios, and driveways within 50 feet of the home. Shading should be calculated for noon June 21, when the sun is directly overhead, based on five years’ growth. Or install light-colored, high-albedo materials or vegetation including white concrete, open pavers (counting only the vegetation) or any material with a solar reflectance index (SRI) of at least 29.

Surface Water Management

The permeable lot homes have permanent erosion controls on site and manage run-off from the roof.

The Sustainable Sites category of credits includes prerequisites to prevent construction runoff from damaging sewers and preserve topsoil. An infill site minimized disturbed area of the site.

The Sustainable Sites category of credits includes prerequisites to prevent construction runoff from damaging sewers and preserve topsoil. This is accomplished by managing some of the runoff from the roof with a rain barrel and including a permeable garden on site.

Nontoxic Pest Control

The home’s integrated nontoxic pest control methods include sealing external cracks and joints with caulking and installing pest-proof screens. There are no wood-to-concrete connections. Typically all cellulosic (wood type) material is treated with borate product to three feet above foundation as an additional pest control measure.

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Water Efficiency

Water Efficiency is a very important category of LEED. It includes water reuse, which is demonstrated by a rainwater harvesting system, which includes a 2000 gallon tank to capture water for landscape use. Water efficiency measures included a high-efficiency irrigation system including drip irrigation for 50% of planting beds, separate zone for each type of planting, timers for each zone, and sensors that recognize it has rained and no irrigation is needed.

Very high-efficiency fixtures and fittings were selected for the home with an average flow rate is 1.75 gallons per minute, and 1.10 gallons per flush.

Energy & Atmosphere

Data from the homebuilding industry indicate that roughly 1.5 million new homes are built each year and that the average size of new homes has doubled in the past 50 years. As a result, total U.S. fossil fuel use in homes has been steadily increasing. The average American consumes five times more energy than the average global citizen, ten times more than the average Chinese person, and nearly 20 times more than the average Indian.

Optimizing energy performance measures improve the overall energy performance of a home by meeting or exceeding the performance of an Energy Star labeled home. A Home Energy Rating System (HERS) analysis verification of the energy efficiency of the home will be performed. They are required to exceed the Energy Star standard by reference to the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) analysis verification of the energy efficiency of the home. A rating of 35 will mean that a home is 65% more efficient than a typical home in Cincinnati.

Residential refrigerant management

No ozone damaging HCFC refrigerants are used in the air conditioning system and a refrigerant charge test was performed.

Materials and Resources

The choice of building materials in important for sustainable homebuilding because of the extraction, processing, and transportation they require. Activities to produce building materials may pollute the air and water, destroy natural habitats and deplete natural resources. Construction and demolition wastes constitute about 40% of the total solid waste stream in the United States.

Material-efficient framing

The choice of building Materials and Resources is important for sustainable homebuilding because of the extraction, processing, and transportation they require. Activities to produce building materials may pollute the air and water, destroy natural habitats and deplete natural resources. Construction and demolition wastes constitute about 40 percent of the total solid waste stream in the United States.

The framing order waste factor limit was reduced. Waste factor is defined as the percentage of framing material ordered in excess of the estimated material needed for construction.

Materials and resources included framing efficiencies and off-site panelized construction leading to 88% of on-site waste diverted from landfills. Off-site panelized construction is similar to a factory-built home in that the quality of construction may be higher because the construction isn’t subject to the weather and the possibility of less highly trained carpenters.

Environmentally preferable products

Environmentally preferable products increase demand for environmentally preferable products and products or building components that are extracted, processed, and manufactured within the region. Forest Stewardship Council certified tropical woods were used. A species is considered tropical if it is grown between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The country of origin was requested for each wood product.  

Waste management

Waste management practices require projects to reduce waste generation to a level below the industry norm. Construction waste management planning investigated and documented local options for diversion and measured it, which resulted in diverting at least 25 percent or more from landfills.

Indoor Environmental Quality

Americans spend an average 90% of their time indoors, where levels o pollutants may run two to five times – and occasionally more than 100 times – higher than outdoors, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Many of the pollutants found indoors can cause health reactions in the estimated 17 million Americans who suffer from asthma and 40 million who have allergies, contributing to millions of days absent from school and work. The home will be Energy Star Certified with Indoor Air Plus.

Combustion venting

Indoor Environmental Quality requires combustion venting which limits the leakage of combustion gases into the occupied space of the home. Indoor environmental quality included no unvented combustion appliances, carbon monoxide detectors in rooms that share a door with the garage; all fireplaces have doors, and space/water-heating equipment is designed with closed combustion or catalytic converters are specified.

Moisture control

Controlling indoor moisture levels to provide comfort, reduce risk of mold and increase the durability of the home is part of the moisture load control. They installed dehumidification equipment capable of maintaining humidity at or below 60 percent. They meet ASHRAE Standards and only exhaust air to the outdoors, not the attic or interstitial spaces.

Outdoor Air Ventilation

Outdoor Air Ventilation measures reduce occupant exposure to indoor pollutants by ventilating with outdoor air. Prerequisites included bathroom and kitchen exhausts meeting ASHRAE Standard 62.2 airflow requirements, air is exhausted to outdoors by an Energy Star labeled bathroom exhaust. Third-party performance testing was performed to verify proper installation.

Local exhaust

LEED Homes reduce moisture and exposure to indoor pollutants in kitchens and bathrooms by meeting ASHRAE Standards and only exhaust air to the outdoors, not the attic or interstitial spaces. Enhanced local exhaust uses occupancy sensors, automatic humidistat controller, and automatic timer or continuous fan. It included third-party performance testing.

Distribution of space heating and cooling

Distribution of space heating and cooling provided appropriate distribution of HVAC in the home to improve thermal comfort and energy performance. Room-by-room load calculations ensured ducts are designed accordingly. A typical home which has improved the distribution of space heating and cooling includes a return air opening of 1 square inch per cfm of supply and continuous supply airflow rates in each room tested and confirmed.

Air filtering

Very high performance, MERV 13, filters were installed.

Contaminant control

Indoor contaminants were controlled during construction, and the design allows for contaminant control, which includes space for shoe removal and storage near the primary entryway. A preoccupancy flush was performed to rid the home of contaminants that built up during the construction process.

Radon protection

Radon testing was done, and controls put into place if needed.

Garage pollutant protection

The home has no HVAC in the garage to minimize pollutants from the garage. The attached garage penetrations and floor and ceiling joists connections are sealed to prevent pollutants from getting into the home. It also includes an exhaust fan.

Awareness and Education

Some homebuyers may know very little about green home construction. They may be unaware of the green features in the home, or they may be unfamiliar with how to use and maintain them. Without adequate training, the full benefits of the LEED measures likely will not be achieved.

Education of the homeowner or tenant

Some homebuyers may know very little about green home construction. They may be unaware of the green features in the home, or they may be unfamiliar with how to use and maintain them. Without adequate training, the full benefits of the LEED measures likely will not be achieved.

Veronica and Chris will receive an operator and training manual as well as a one-hour walkthrough. They’ll also receive the LEED checklists and forms, manufacturer’s manuals and cleaning and maintenance guidance. Finally, they will receive two hours of enhanced training.

Awareness and education requirements include this article as part of the LEED Certification. It will be published online at Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy and the local USGBC’s Chapter site once certified. LEED Signage was posted on the site.

Builder Information
Doug Feagles – GMB Graduate Master Builder
Eagle Custom Homes & Remodeling
411 W. Loveland Ave., Suite 202, Loveland, OH 45140
Phone: 513-965-0455, Cell: 513-582-2151
doug@eaglecustomhomes.com, www.eagelcustomhomes.com

LEED Green Rater Information
Green Building Consulting
1401 Main St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
Phone: 513-381-1470
GBC@GreenBldgConsulting.com, www.GreenBldgConsulting.com

If you would like to tour LEED homes in Cincinnati

We suggest you join the local USGBC Chapter and attend their home tours, learn more about What a LEED Home looks like?


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Topics: Green Marketing, LEED, Green Building Marketing, Green Building, Business to Consumer Advertising, Featured, Cincinnati LEED home, What Does a LEED Home Look Like

Lohre Advertising, Graphic Design, and Website Design Author Photo

Written by Chuck Lohre

Owner of Lohre & Associates Marketing Communications. The company celebrated their 80th Anniversary in 2015, his 38th.