Cincinnati Tax Abatement Drives Historic LEED Home Renovation
By Chuck Lohre
Chip and DeDe Dennig are going back to the neighborhood his ancestors immigrated to on Bremen Street, in the heart of Cincinnati’s original German neighborhood.
After a complete renovation of 1507 Republic St. (formerly 125 Bremen St.), Chip and DeDe Dennig are putting the finishing touches on their new, old home. The project was two years in the making and the owners are hoping to achieve Gold LEED certification.
|DeDe & Chip Denning|
This certification involves the adoption of stringent green practices to produce a home that is energy efficient and uses resources in an environmentally responsible way, from highly efficient HVAC systems to plumbing fixtures that reduce water flow. For example, all shower fixtures in the home are 1.75 gpm. Rainwater will be captured from a downspout and used for drip irrigation to care for the native, drought-tolerant plantings in the permeable portion of the courtyard. Insulation and efficient doors and windows will reduce energy consumption considerably. Original flooring was reused in three of the home’s living spaces.
Chip and DeDe are moving from the broad streets of suburban Anderson Township, to a narrow lane renamed Republic Street in 1918. Their kids have grown up and moved out. The couple watched as a new streetcar for Cincinnati was under construction and saw Washington Park being re-built as the front door of Cincinnati’s Music Hall, a Sängerhalle during the heyday of German life in the Queen City. Today, the city boasts the largest Octoberfest outside Munich and locally made wursts are the best regional food.
But a millennium ago it wasn’t that way. Cincinnati tried to hide its German roots. From Cincinnati.com, “Cincinnati wasn't always proud of its German heritage. The echo of the anti-German hysteria a century earlier has remained. It's in the names of 10 streets, which the city renamed during World War I. *
The Dennigs had historian Ann Senefeld complete research on the history of the home in 2015. The first record of the lot was in 1789 and the first recorded resident of the building was Tice Matthias, a shoemaker in 1849. Other early tradesmen were carpenters, teamsters, blacksmiths, furniture makers and coppersmiths.
The home has other notable stories. On June 13, 1883, the following article appeared in The Cincinnati Enquirer, “A Widow’s Slice – Magdalena Schneider’s Attempt to Get Into the Great Beyond. Mrs. Magdalena Schneider, a widow, residing at No. 125 Bremen Street, attempted suicide early yesterday morning by cutting her throat with an old butcher knife. She arose from her bed about half-past four o’clock and sliced her throat from ear to ear. Her daughter thought she heard water trickling on the floor, and, lighting the lamp, she discovered her mother bleeding from a horrible-looking wound. The woman, who is fifty-seven years of age, was removed to the hospital as soon as possible. Where her wounds were dressed. There was no immediate danger of her dying last night, and it is possible that she may recover. She has been acting queerly of late, and temporary insanity is the only cause assigned for her action. She resided on the third floor of the house mentioned with two daughters. Maggie and Mary, both young women, who assist in earning a livelihood for the little family.”
Residents of the building came from Hannover, Prussia, Badin, Bavaria and Warstenburg Germany. Dennig ancestors lived all over OTR from 1880 to 1915 on Mansfeld, Wade, Elder, Bremen, Mulberry, Broadway, Elm and Vine Streets. Chip’s Great Grandfather Bernard Heinrich Dennig (1845-1912) was a tailor at 390 Broadway in 1870.
Cincinnati architect Graham Kalbli, principal of New Republic Architecture, said “Taking a project like this from concept to completion is a source of great pride for us.” Commenting on the challenging renovation, “This was a big endeavor for Chip and DeDe, and we enjoyed collaborating with them to create the best project possible. We are thrilled to see the Dennigs move into their new home that we have worked together to create.”
Cincinnati history of the LEED tax abatement
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.
LEED for Homes Certification level credit decision story
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. Oneof 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 home 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 home owners 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.
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 was a Professional Credentialed with respect to LEED for Homes.
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 incorporates additional green design and construction features with measurable environmental benefits.
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 locations’ 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 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 home achieved Outstanding community resources / transit because it is within one-quarter mile of eleven, one-half mile of 14 and 60 transit rides per weekday. The highly desired urban location encourages walking, physical activity, and time spent outdoors; it is located within one-half mile of a three-quarter acre of a public open space.
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.
The Sustainable Sites category of credits includes landscaping, 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. The Dennig residence also included no invasive plants and excluded conventional turf.
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.
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.
LEED encourages the use of compact development patterns on buildable land to conserve land and promote community livability, transportation efficiency and walkability. The Dennig residence is located in a Very High-Density Average of 20 or more dwelling units per acre.
Water Efficiency is a very important category of LEED. It includes water reuse, which is demonstrated by a rainwater harvesting system, which includes a rain barrel 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 indoor water use. Average flow rate is 1.75 gallons per minute, and 1.10 gallons per flush.
Regarding 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 that 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. A rating of 35 will mean that a home is 65% more efficient than a typical home in Cincinnati. No ozone-damaging HCFC refrigerants are used in the air conditioning system.
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.
Environmentally preferable products increase demand for environmentally preferable products and products or building components that are extracted, processed, and manufactured within the region. The country of origin was requested for each wood product.
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.
Americans spend an average 90 percent of their time indoors, where levels of 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. 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.
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. The Dennigs 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 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.
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 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. Very high performance, MERV 13, filters were installed.
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 testing was done and controls put into place if needed.
The Dennig home has no garage, which can be a source of harmful carbon monoxide.
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. The Dennigs 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, the Dennigs 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.
DeDe and Chip couldn’t be happier with their decision to move to downtown Cincinnati. The experience of finding the right building (the photo above is the before image) and all the steps in between make their new start in Over-the-Rhine all the more exciting and rewarding.
*After nearly a century, German names will once again adorn these roads.
Three streets will go back to their original German names: Woodrow (Berlin) Street in Price Hill and Stonewall (Hamburg) and Yukon (Hanover) Streets, both in Over-the-Rhine. They're small streets. Only one, Yukon, has a residence – a rental unit. Seven streets will retain their current names, but the original German names of seven streets will hang below the street signs as honorary designations. They are: Republic (Bremen) Street in OTR; Edgecliff (Brunswick) Point and Merrimac (Hapsburg) Street, both in Walnut Hills; Panama (Vienna) Street in California; Orion (Wilhelm) Street and Beredith (Schumann) Place, both in Pleasant Ridge and Connecticut (Frankfort) Avenue in College Hill. That way residents won't have to change their address labels.
The article was written to achieve the LEED Education and Publicity Credit for Homes. Chuck Lohre is president of Lohre & Associates Marketing Communications and a LEED AP ID+C. The company operates from a LEED Platinum certified building in Cincinnati.
Read more about green home certifications.