We’ve been watching this new single family residence take shape for two of our repeat clients. Now that it is nearly complete, we want to share some of the special features that were included in the design process to make this a LEED Platinum targeted project.
The decision of where to build is the first step in green building. The project is situated on a vacant double lot in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The density of Over-the-Rhine and the density of the house itself on its site were critical! Ten of the required 89 LEED points came from the qualities of the site; a previously-developed infill site with access to existing infrastructure, community resources, transit, and open space. (Who wouldn’t want to be within steps of Findlay Market, the streetcar, and Washington Park?) Walkability reduces the reliance on automobiles, and the re-use of land in an urban core reduces sprawl.
The design of the house is compact on the site, with 2800 sf of space divided into three stories on a tenth of an acre. Inside the house, the number of bedrooms - including possible future bedrooms - contributes to the flexibility of the house. The home is intended to be used with three bedrooms, but the layout and orientation of the home office, first floor living room, and third floor study could allow these spaces to be converted to or used as bedrooms in the future. LEED incentivizes this inherent flexibility, as it means this house can last for generations, accommodating a variety of family sizes without the addition of more common space. LEED’s Home Size Adjustment takes this into account.
Selections of very high efficiency plumbing fixtures contributed several points to the LEED goal. The home’s two full-baths and two powder rooms utilize flow rates of 1.2 gpm for lavatories, 1.75 gpm for showers, and 0.96 gpf for toilets.
The exceptional energy performance of this house is two-fold. Outboard insulation on the walls and spray foam at the roofs, along with good U-factor windows, and efficient HVAC equipment contribute to a robust envelope. The building ultimately obtained a HERS index of 58.
Points for efficient hot water distribution were obtained with carefully located hot water heaters. By limiting the run of pipe from the water heater to the source, less water is wasted while waiting for hot water, and less heat is wasted from the pipes. One water heater is mounted high on the wall on the first floor, and one is mounted low on the wall on the 3rd floor, with carefully coordinated pipe runs that were measured in the field.
Certain design decisions in the house help improve the quality of the indoor air. Foregoing a fireplace prevents combustion particles in the air. Detaching the garage prevents fumes and other pollutants from making their way into the house. Even a design move as simple as providing an area for taking off and storing shoes near the entryway reduces dirt and pollutants being tracked through the home.
Material selections featured in this home include locally produced goods (white shingle roof, poplar trim), sustainably sourced products (solid core doors with sustainable core-filling material and bamboo composite decking), and otherwise better-for-your-health products (low VOC paints and finishes).
In the end, building a house requires thousands (millions?) of questions to be answered. Using LEED as a guide, some of those choices can lead to a healthy, durable, more sustainable home.
Stay tuned for a full project highlight when all the final details are in place!