Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Natural Awakenings

Starting next week, I'll also be blogging for Natural Awakenings Magazine. Here's the link!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cincinnati Habitat's first green rated home

On June 12th Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity launched the build of its first green rated home. The house, located on 1141 Homeside Ave in College Hill, will receive a green certification from the National Association of Home Builders. The home will also be Energy Star rated along with meeting EPA Indoor Air Plus requirements. Some of the homes features include a 95% efficient furnace, raised heal trusses (which allows for more insulation in the attic), prefabricated floor joists (saves on lumber), and low VOC carpet (better for indoor air quality). The home will also achieve a 52 on the Home Energy Rating System index. This means that the home will be about 50% more energy efficient than a standard, code built home.

The design for the home came from a contest held by Habitat affiliates in Ohio and the Ohio American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment. Architects around Ohio entered hoping to have their green designs built by Habitat. Allison Beer and Jessica Farmer of SHP Leading Design won the contest and their design is the one currently being built in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity hopes that this project will be the prototype of how they will build in the future. The CHFH Green Building Blog will be posting updates about the build at 1141 Homeside and all of Cincinnati Habitat's green initiatives.

Photo by: Adam Nelson

Monday, June 28, 2010

Directory addition: The Hillside Trust

I've added the Hillside Trust to the green directory. Since 1976, this non-profit has been advocating for the conservation and responsible use of Cincinnati's hillsides.

Follow this link to learn more!

The Hillside Trust

Sunday, June 27, 2010

City pushes urban agriculture

Earlier this year, City Council changed zoning requirement in order to stimulate urban agriculture. Prior to this change, zoning codes would not allow gardening to be a primary use of land. Gardening could only be done on land used for residences or businesses. The new zoning code will make it easier for community gardens to develop throughout the city.

Furthermore, the city has made the 2009 Urban Agriculture Pilot Project into a permanent initiative. Under the project, 15 parcels of unused, city owned land were rented out for $1 to a variety of community groups and garden clubs. City Council has made more undeveloped land available for community gardening this year.

Contact Robin Henderson for more information about the Urban Agriculture Project.

Photo by: Manjith Kainickara

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

UC's bike plan

Many don't know this, but the University of Cincinnati is quietly becoming one of the greenest schools in the U.S. This year's Princeton review named UC to its list of national leaders in environmental practices. It is the only public school in Ohio to receive the honor. UC's commitment to sustainability took shape in 2007 when President Zimpher signed The American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). Since then, the president's advisory council on environment and sustainability has created a comprehensive sustainability plan for the university. Much of this plan involves the built environment, but one of its most unique aspects is a commitment to alternative transportation, especially bicycles.

In December of 2009, UC drafted the first version of its comprehensive bike plan. The plan outlines a number of initiatives that are meant to increase bicycle use throughout the campus and surrounding areas. The University of Cincinnati Bike Share Program, which began on April 22, 2010, is one of the first steps in the bike plan. The bike share program allows both students and faculty to rent bikes in a similar manner to checking out books at the library. The bikes are free and come with all required safety equipment. All that is needed is a student or faculty/staff ID. Bicycle and monetary donations are being accepted by the program.

Another part of the bicycle plan involves awareness. This means adding bike routes to campus maps and increasing the amount of signage that marks routes. The plan also includes the provision of safety courses and bike related literature for students and faculty. Rights of way outside of school jurisdiction are also addressed. The City of Cincinnati, which also has a new bike plan, has been coordinating efforts with the university in order to add bike lanes and "sharrows" to surrounding streets (e.g. Clifton Avenue).

Adding bicycle related infrastructure is integral to the plan. Showers and changing facilities throughout campus will be added to support the increase in ridership. New bikes racks will also be installed in both covered and open areas. These infrastructure items help support bikers and also add important LEED credits to any building attempting certification through the USGBC.

UC hopes that this plan will not only help lower the school's carbon footprint but will also serve as a social link between the university and the surrounding uptown neighborhoods.

In the coming weeks, I will continue to provide updates on all of UC's sustainability efforts.

Photo By: Joe Dunckley

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Energy Rebates in Ohio Part II: Renewable Energy

The Federal Government is offering a tax credit to homeowners who are willing to install renewable energy technologies in their homes. The credit has been around since 2006 and isn't set to expire until 2016, so there's plenty of time to take advantage of this great incentive.

The Renewable Energy Tax Credit only applies to the installation of the following systems:

- Solar electric
- Solar hot water
- Fuel cell
- Wind energy
- Geothermal heat pumps

The credit is equal to 30% of the cost of the renewable energy system installed. The credit not only includes the cost of the physical system but also the cost of installation and piping/wiring to connect it to the home. If your tax liability is less than the credit in a given year, the difference will be carried forward to the next tax year.

Most of the systems do not have a credit limit, as long as they have been installed after 2008. If your system was installed before 2008, a $2,000.00 limit may apply. The only current exception is the fuel cell technology. The government has set the limit on these systems to $500.00 per half kW.

There are many installation and equipment requirements that must be followed in order to receive the tax credit. All information is available at

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Habitat Restore open for business

Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity has opened its first Restore! Located in Bond Hill, the store sells gently used appliances, building materials, and furniture for pennies on the dollar. All proceeds go toward building more houses for families in need. Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity is doubling their home production, so they can use the funding!

Reusing old items is one of the best things that we can do to save energy and resources. The embodied energy involved in manufacturing new products is huge! Harvesting materials, manufacturing, and transportation all use energy. When buying a used item, the only additional embodied energy is driving to the store to pick it up. Why buy an expensive, boring door at Home Depot, when you can buy a used door with character for less?

Buying used appliances requires more caution. Though you may save money in the short term in buying a used appliance, you may be shooting yourself in the foot if you buy an inefficient product. This not only hurts your wallet in the long run, it also hurts the environment. Make sure to do your homework before buying a used appliance.

Here's a link to pictures of some of the great items that the restore is selling!

Restore Location: 4910 Para Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45237

Saving money on air conditioning

Summer time is quickly approaching and many homeowners are already racing to their thermostats to crank up the AC. This, in turn, causes a sky rocket in electricity use during the hot months of the year. Though Cincinnati is located in a humid climate, there are still many strategies that can be used to soften the blow of summertime electricity bills, while still keeping a house at a comfortable temperature.

Simple, low cost ideas

- Get rid of all incandescent light bulbs and replace with compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • Not only are CFLs more efficients, they also produce 90% less heat than an incandescent.
-Use heat generating appliances in the morning and evening
  • Dryers, dishwashers, ovens, and washing machines all produce heat when used.
  • Close the door to rooms where these appliances are being used to avoid the spread of heat!
- Cover your skylights
  • Skylights may be a trendy addition to a home, but they turn a room into an oven!
  • Covers can be easily purchased at a relatively low price, or if you are feeling crafty, you can make one.
- Window Shading
  • If a house is insulated well, most of the heat gain is from sunshine coming through windows.
  • Awnings, especially on the south side of the house are great at blocking the sun's rays.
  • Thick curtains and interiors shades also help block sun.
  • If you aren't home during the day or don't need sunlight in your house, cover the windows during hours of peak sunlight.
- Open windows at night

- Trees and small shrubs that gain leaves in the summer can also block the sun's rays if placed in the proper locations.

- Ceiling fans
  • Turning on a ceiling fan has the same effect as lowering the air temperature four degrees. ( Daniel Chiras)

Thinking bigger

- Light colors
  • Both roof shingles and siding can be lightly colored to avoid heat absorption.
- Low-e Windows.
  • Quality low-e coated windows when properly placed and installed can block the sun's rays.
-Insulation/air sealing
  • Keep warm air out by adding insulation and sealing air gaps. (especially in the attic!)
  • Energy auditors can tell you if you need more insulation and air sealing.
- Whole House Fans
  • An inexpensive way to pull hot air out of the house and draw cold air in.
  • Open windows at night and let the fan do the work.
- Geothermal Cooling
  • If you want to go all out, this is the system of choice.
  • Similar to a refrigerator, geothermal technology removes heat from the house and releases it into the ground
  • Geothermal technology is expensive, but over time it saves on energy because of it can be up to 400% efficient.
Many of these ideas can be used in tandem with AC. Turning AC off at night and using some of these techniques can save a lot of energy and money. For most in Cincinnati, air conditioners are a must have. If you are one of these people, make sure to maintain your system by regularly removing any dust or debris that accumulates on the unit. If you are buying a new air conditioner, make sure that it is energy efficient and the correct size for your home.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Affordable, green homes in Northside

Northwind and Rockford Woods are two of Cincinnati's newest green communities. Located in Northside, these communities showcase homes that are both afforable and energy efficient. Potterhill, a Milford based builder, will be showing some of the homes in this year's Citirama, taking place June 3-14.

These Energy Star rated homes feature high efficiency furnaces, geothermal pumps, cellulose insulation and Low-e windows. The location and lot size also play a huge role in the green appeal of these homes. Not only are the lots smaller than average, they are also located near many amenities and public transit options. This "new urbanist" approach to building helps conserve both energy and existing natural areas.

Another great aspect of the homes is the LEED incentive that Potterhill is offering. If a homeowner chooses to have their new home LEED certified, they will receive an extra five years of property tax abatement on their homes. This is on top of the ten years of abatement that Potterhill already offers. All of this is available in homes that are all priced under $200,000

For info and pictures of these communities, you can visit