Traditional facades give way to superhero residences.
Imagine a Batcave in OTR complete with a collection of chase vehicles and solar power on the roof. Or a three-story historic stone façade rowhouse that opens up onto a 320-degree deck view of Cincinnati, all very sustainable LEED Platinum and Gold.
Chad Puckett and Jerry Reeves are principals and partners in Fold and Form. They cut their teeth on another very famous LEED project, the Christian Moerlein Lager House at The Banks. They worked at Tilsley Architects (Moerlein’s architectural firm), Chad for 15 years and Jerry for eight, when they decided to join forces creating Fold and Form, an architecture and construction firm. The name comes from the way origami folds to create a three-dimensional form from a two-dimensional piece of paper. Fold and Form targets LEED Platinum for all its projects, so they’re prepared for whatever LEED level the homeowner wants to go for (Christian Moerlein Lager House is the first LEED project involving the Cincinnati Park Board, which owns the lease on the property.)
Fold and Form’s latest projects consist of two homes on Mulberry Street and a third on Corwine Street. The Mulberry Street pair are multi-story rowhouses across the street from one another. One is dark gray brick with black mortar, a modern twist on the traditional red brick in OTR. Every structure in the historic districts of Cincinnati needs to be approved by the preservation board. It wasn’t too hard to get them to approve the dark brick or the more traditional stone look of the home across the street, but it was harder to get the board to see that many of the homes on the hills surrounding the downtown flood plain had their backsides blown out into floor to ceiling glass to show off the incredible views. They got those features approved for both projects. One is LEED Platinum pending, and the other is LEED Gold Certified, but the owners might go ahead with more improvement to achieve Platinum within a year.
The home on Corwine is a different story. I spoke to Tony Alexander, the owner, about the project that has been going on for three years. It’s going for LEED Platinum because of the unlimited tax abatement on the structure. Tony is putting more than $563,000 into a home with a glass wall between the living space and his car collection. The Cincinnati LEED tax abatement is in tiers. As you achieve higher levels of LEED, you get more tax abatements on the value of the structure. The property tax on the land isn’t abated. If you achieve LEED Silver the tax abatement is on the first $285,000 of the structure, LEED Gold is $563,000 and for LEED Platinum it’s unlimited. That price doesn’t include his car collection! Tony’s building a home with his car collection as part of the architecture! The very large first floor has a glass curtain wall that allows the showroom area to be visible from the living room when the traditional overhead garage door retracts into the ceiling.
Tony likes the idea of very efficient home that’s capable of living off the grid. He’ll have a Tesla Powerwall that will store the excess power generated by the 32 solar panels on the roof. “It Looks Nice,” Tony said about the Tesla Powerwall battery for the planned 65 HERS score residence. HERS stands for Home Energy Rating System, used by the U.S. Green Building Council to third party verify LEED homes. HERS 65 means it will be 35 percent more efficient that a typical home in Cincinnati. The biggest hurdle Tony had to overcome was the appraisal of the project so he could get a construction loan. Initially, there were no comparables. When he started out the typical home in the neighborhood was $20 per square foot, now it’s not uncommon to find $400 per square foot projects in the works.
Since 2002, the city of Cincinnati has granted 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 LEED tax abatement became tiered for Silver, Gold and Platinum levels of certification. 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.