Nearing Completion: Elm Street Home Historic Restoration by Keren Kabo

Aside from choosing where to build, one of the most important questions in home design is howto build.  More specifically, it is critical to consider sustainable options and processes throughout the entire design process.  Sometimes that means reaching for LEED, and now that this project is just about complete, we wanted to share some of the features incorporated into this home to make it a LEED SILVER targeted project. 

 
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This historic home in Over-the-Rhine was built in 1900 as a single-family residence, and our clients fell in love with it.  It sits in the heart of an urban historic district flanked by two other historic row houses and is within steps of the streetcar and Washington Park (the location and site amenities alone offered some of the points required to reach our goals).  The building cycled through a variety of residential uses throughout its time varying from a boarding house, to rented room lodging, and was even broken down into 8 apartments at one point in time.  When we finally got ahold of it, it had been sitting officially empty for approximately 25 years and had quite a bit of water damage. This, in addition to the home’s location in a historic district, created some difficult challenges to navigate throughout the design process, especially because our clients knew from the beginning that they wanted to pursue LEED Certification.  Working together as a team with our clients, with Unlimited Carpentry General Contractors, and with Green Building Consulting, we were not only able to maintain the historic character of the home, but also control the environmental impact and waste during the build/renovation process.

 
 
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We think that sharing some of our struggles is just as beneficial as sharing some of our achievements; it’s important to keep in mind that throughout any build process, but especially during a historic restoration process, designs may need to change as existing conditions are better known and understood.  There were many things in our build process that needed to be reconsidered, added, modified and researched.  It’s important to select a build team that will support you in this certification and has the knowledge and experience to do so.  One of the original sustainability goals with this project was to provide landscaping on the remaining site at the front and rear of the property allowing rainwater to permeate the surface and collect in a cistern. Upon further investigation, it was found that ground water was seeping into the entire basement through the stone foundation.  Our builders made the recommendation - for the overall integrity of the home – that our approach change to hardscape, and so our original design for achieving landscape points was unfortunately abandoned.  We also allowed enough roof space for solar panels to fuel the home by incorporating a rooftop shade structure on the occupiable roof deck. This would have allowed us to maintain the use of the roof deck and the views it offers while still gaining the benefit of solar power.  However, given some of the historic parameters we were working within, we were forced to moved away from solar at this time until - hopefully - smaller units become available.  These things certainly inhibited our ability to achieve LEED points, but we were able to re-evaluate and work together to attain points through many other ways.

Following the minor addition in the breezeway and the construction of a stair penthouse to the roof, the home totals approximately 4,300 SF of interior space with a full basement and an occupiable roof deck. Throughout the entire home, we were able to reuse original tile, doors, window glass, sashes and casements, and some of the original wood floors, restore some of the existing brick and plaster, etc. ultimately lowering our need for new products.  Many of the new products we did need were recycled or were sourced locally.  There was no carpet installed anywhere in the home.  We worked closely with our clients to design some of the smallest and most considerate features, such as built-in shelving for shoes upon entry to the home, in order to achieve some of the points we needed.

We looked closely at the bedroom and bathroom configuration through the house.  There are a number of bedrooms, including a couple of rooms that could also be utilized as bedrooms in the future.  LEED incentivizes this inherent flexibility, as it means the house can last for generations, accommodating a variety of family sizes without the addition of more common space.  This is taken into account through LEED’s Home Size Adjustment.

The bathrooms throughout the home all utilize very high-efficiency fixtures, including low-flush/dual-flush toilets and low-flow faucets and shower-heads, which contributed several points toward the LEED goal.

We added a stair penthouse to access the occupiable roof deck.  Since many of the buildings in this district are very long, narrow, and close together, our client wanted to use this as an opportunity to bring more natural light into the center of the home.  We opened the stair at the first floor, installed a number of operable windows at the roof deck to help with natural ventilation, and added a full skylight/glass roof to bring as much daylight as possible down into the (naturally dark) center of the home. We also opened up the first floor into the breezeway and added a glass conservatory roof bringing even more natural light into the first floor and offering more views for those spaces.

Nearing Completion: Pleasant Street Home by Keren Kabo

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.

 Site before construction.

Site before construction.

 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.  

 
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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. 

 
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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.

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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! 

HGTV Urban Oasis 2018 in Cincinnati by Keren Kabo

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HGTV Urban Oasis® 2018. has spent the last year quietly working in Cincinnati, and we are lucky to have been a part of this top-secret project.

Partnering with HGTV and The English Contractor, has been an exciting and enriching experience. We can’t wait to share more with you after the big reveal.

Keep posted on all the work that has happened to this home and sign up for daily reminders so you don't forget to enter HERE!

 

HGTV, HGTV Urban Oasis, HGTV Urban Oasis Giveaway and their associated logos are trademarks of Scripps Networks, LLC.  Videos © 2018 Scripps Networks, LLC.  Used with permission; all rights reserved.

UPDATES: INDIAN HILL HOME by Keren Kabo

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Very proud to have helped bring this beautiful home to life. Huge windows bringing in lots of natural light, along with rich woods and stucco finishes should bring lots of warmth. Can't wait to see it completed. 

Cincinnati Design Awards by Keren Kabo

Our winner of the night: The Hi-Mark Bar

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Once again we are honored to have been a part of the Cincinnati Design Awards evening – and flattered that it won a Merit Award for its unique design and preservation qualities.  We think it serves as a great example of how we work with our obstacles rather than fight it. 

Congratulations to the project team:  Matthew Stoll, Courtney Zunis & Kurt Platte.  You guys rock!

 

Check out the full design awards submission and more photos here:

CDA 2017

Meeting the Mark (Hi-Mark) by Keren Kabo

 Photos from  The Hi-Mark

Photos from The Hi-Mark

Hi-Mark is one of those projects that feels like it just went on forever, yet the final product was oh-so worth it!  The planning for this project goes back to late 2014 when Nick Motz approached us with an interesting challenge: a dilapidated, historic home in an economically depressed area of the East End that was also part of the restricted flood zone.  We thought it was exactly the sort of crazy, impossible project that we regularly stake our reputation on. The end result is a bar that evokes history, neighborhood vibes, and grit in a one-of-a-kind space. 

Starting with the empty shell of the building, we made the decision to remove the existing floors and shift the first floor up 3 feet. This move solved the problem of being 2' into the flood plain, yet created all sorts of new challenges and interesting conditions.  We cut away portions of of the first floor and a huge section of the 2nd floor to make an upper mezzanine.  By pulling the floors away from the walls, you get little surprises like sunken window sills, peak-throughs, and a floating fire place.  The steel work itself is an impressive feat, executed superbly by our friend Kyle Freeman of Steel-It.  Out back is a new addition that houses the kitchen, cold storage, and the restrooms, as well as a quiet, sunny deck.

It was a very deliberate decision to leave the space as raw as possible, with the original brick, wood joists, mechanical systems, and new steel structure exposed and on full display. This really cements the history of the space, and provided a blank, gritty backdrop for Pho Lang Thang and Eli's to create their concept. This was elemental to their final branding, which references the 1937 flood that came 79.9' above the shores of the Ohio. The name Hi-Mark refers to this historic flood, which is marked on the side of the building, over 10' above the original doorstep.  The space feels almost like it had been wiped away in this flood, only to be rebuilt into the space it is today.

If you ever want to get nerdy with us, this project was a Rubik's Cube of code difficulties.  From the flood zone requirements established by FEMA, to the conversion of an existing residential building into a bar and restaurant, to ADA access and everything in-between.  We learned a lot along the way, and came out the other side knowing way too much about flood-proofing, hydrostatic vs. hydrodynamic forces, and what the B.F.E. is.. (Base Flood Elevation)

It's almost 3 years since it all began, but it's finally open! So go visit, get some chicken wings, play some games, and hang out with a drink on the patio. We promise that when you're there, you won't notice all of those technical issues (we can never escape it though.)  All you'll notice is a neighborhood bar that feels strangely new and old, is both gritty yet smart, and that stands out by feeling like it was always there.

Micro-Condos in OTR by Keren Kabo

EXISTING PHOTOS

Construction at the Stafford project is nearing completion – the project is a mixed-use development combining 3 buildings into a single development, including 11 residential units and several white-boxed commercial spaces. 


EARLY PROCESS PHOTOS

 

At 1233 Walnut, careful removal of several unusable attic spaces allowed us to open up the space and create dramatic lofts units full of light. At 33 East 13th street, existing historic bay windows and brick light-wells allowed for gracious, open kitchen-living-dining rooms, as well as spacious bedrooms with full-height storage and rolling glass doors. 


NEAR COMPLETION PHOTOS

The project also incorporates several micro-units with rolling library ladder storage and built-in millwork. These micros, along with several other loft spaces will be coming online shortly – stay tuned!

 

Fresh Faced! by Keren Kabo

We are so excited to announce that our website is ready to go! We've made a few updates to showcase some of our newer projects better and have also provided a platform to showcase CRASH our drone! Take a look and make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date on what else we are working on!

Enjoy!