Posts Tagged ‘LEED’

LEED Credential Maintenance Program (CMP)

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All LEED professionals are required to maintain their credential by earning continuing education hours. LEED Green Associates must earn 15 continuing education hours within 2 years of earning their credential. LEED APs must earn 30 continuing education hours within 2 years of earning their credential. You can earn hours through these activities related to green building: education, project experience, authorship and volunteering. Access the CMP Guide for additional information about LEED professional credential maintenance.

USGBC website link to download the LEED CMP Guide




Green Building Codes, LEED and the Consumer – Part One

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Okay, it’s a new year and with this comes the California 2019 Green Building Standards Code (aka CALGreen), LEED v4.1 being released for public comment, and who knows what else.

Aside from the ICC International Green Construction Code, if CALGreen is an example of what we can expect as a trend, in the extreme, with mandatory green building codes, what will be the impact of these new and more stringent green building codes as they find their way across the country? The California 2008 Green Building Standards Code went into effect on August 1, 2009 and was voluntary, unless otherwise adopted by local jurisdictions as mandatory. With the new California 2019 Green Building Standards Code, state compliance is mandatory.

We saw substantial changes with the migration of LEED v2.2 over to LEED 2009, and the proposed revisions for LEED 2012 appears as if more robust revisions are in the works. Tristan Roberts from BuildingGreen and LEEDuser has published Your Guide to the New Draft of LEED that provides a good analysis of the proposed revisions. Likewise, Joel McKellar at Real Life LEED goes in depth with information he gathered on the LEED 2012 Update from USGBC’s presentation at this year’s Greenbuild convention. From a cursory review of LEED 2012, USGBC seems to be taking a necessary step in addressing many of the inadequacies and inconsistencies in the current rating systems.

It didn’t go unnoticed when USGBC rolled out LEED 2009 and informed us that this upgrade represented a major shift in direction for USGBC. USGBC would prefer to see state and local codes adopt LEED Green Building Rating Systems as a baseline to be modeled into hybrid systems, as determined by the appropriate jurisdiction, while they concentrate on ways to improve the rating systems, and thereby raising the bar. Three documents found on the California Green Building Blog illustrate the comparison between CALGreen and LEED. Cover Letter, CALGreen non- residential LEED comparison and CALGreen residential LEED comparison. With more accurate historical data being gathered, new technology being introduced to market, and broader consumer interest, it’s good that USGBC has recognized the fact they need to be more focused on keeping abreast of technological advances. They appear to be embracing a three yearupgrade cycle, with quarterly updates as necessary.

Many professionals who are LEED Accredited Professionals believe LEED 2009 was rushed out the door before it was ready. Apparently this is also the feeling with CALGreen. Bloomberg Law Reports had an interesting article titled CALGreen and Its Impact on Third Party Certification Programs that reads more like a list of CALGreen issues than a threat to third party certification programs. Regardless, LEED, as all LEED APs understand, is and always has been a tool – not a code.

As long as these green building programs are voluntary, consumers can buy into any degree of sustainability that satisfies their concerns, and budgets. And as it stands now, LEED must be responsible for, and answer to, the performance it promotes. Likewise, once codes begin mandating performance, we will expect to realize results in return for our expenditures. But how will these mandatory codes differ from the voluntary LEED rating systems. Can green building codes establish green building regulations and just walk away?

USGBC/LEED is under assault, rightly or wrongly, for a history of under performance. Without going into the complexities involved with providing green buildings and maintaining green building performance, potential solutions are being investigated. One of the solutions being discussed is re-commissioning of all newly certified buildings, perhaps every five years. We understand federal and state regulations are necessary, to a degree. But we also know that federal and state regulators can and do overreach (e.g.; EPA regulates dairy spills as per oil spills). Will local and state governments overreach if they come under assault? Will every new green building be required to undergo re-commissioning at regular intervals? It seems as if everyone is rushing to get there, but they really don’t have a solid understanding of where “there” is.

It took a long time for consumers to embrace green buildings, for a variety of reasons, and USGBC knows very well what one of the reasons is. LEED places a heavy emphasis on the relatively small additional costs associated with basic entry level LEED certification. The extent of their life cycle analysis messaging gives us a pretty good clue they are understandably sensitive to costs, as well they should be. However, discussing the value a green building may have in 50 years probably falls on deaf ears when the owner is more concerned about his financial business model today, or 10 years from today. So, how many consumers, or clients, are going to buy into a program that requires them to monitor and address building performance degradation, or lose certification?

Who would commit to such an unknown expense? And what if the original owner sells the building and the new owner changes the use of the building, or the number of occupants, or even the interior colors? By what model must the building be in compliance with under these circumstances? Will we see the formation of code police to ensure owners and occupants are turning off the lights and flushing per code allowances? As LEED APs we can, and should, support USGBC in their efforts to improve the stable of green building rating systems and, hence, building performance. But we can also debate any decision to force continued monitoring and subsequent remedial action.




A Word About Green Building Performance

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Professionals provide certifiable buildings in accordance with green building codes or green rating systems, and the specific requirements of the client. Prior to occupancy, the project has been verified by a third party to have been designed and built in accordance with the above requirements. However, the client must be informed that performance not only depends on their awareness of the strategies incorporated to provide a certain level of performance, but also to the fact that performance will begin to degrade the day they take occupancy, if not the day the components were installed. Oversight, monitoring and maintenance are essential to the continued performance of any green project. It is important that the client, owner or tenant understand what is expected of their ownership or occupancy responsibilities in order to maintain building performance. Additionally, an important responsibility of the professional is that of educating their clients as to realistic expectations of performance achievement.

Two examples were posted in the family section to help explain the responsibilities that must be assumed by the owner/user:

Some consumers express disappointment with the performance of their green home. For those who have new homes that were or are being built to conform to some level of sustainability, they need to understand that only the vehicle is being provided to them. The owner of a new car must not only learn how to operate their new car, but also understand the importance of scheduled routine maintenance to the continued performance of their vehicle.

As an example, take two families living next door to each other. One, the Jane family includes the mother, father and two teenage girls. Next door lives the John family with mother, father and two teenage boys. Each family buys an automobile. Identical automobiles – same make, model, power train and accessories. The Jane family drives responsibly, managing their daily trips and usage miles, obeying speed limits and having scheduled maintenance performed as recommended. On the other hand, there is John and his two teenage boys. Jumping in the car at every whim, total disregard for speed limits and changes the oil and spark plugs only when the car fails to start. Guess which family achieves the performance and reliability they expected when they purchased their brand new automobile? This same analogy applies to a sustainable building – that sustainable building is as well constructed and finely tuned as an automobile.

A sustainable home is greater than the sum of its pieces. While each of the individual pieces have meaning on their own, it’s when taken together – working in unison – where the meaning changes. High performance buildings depend on these pieces being coordinated as a whole.

For example, your sustainable home may use energy conservation measures designed to meet a certain performance level to save energy based on agreed to material and color selections. Change the colors from light to dark and flooring from carpet to ceramic and you’ve changed the original parameters. And, occasionally, these seemingly innocent changes are made too late, as the equipment had been installed. Now the dark colors reflect less light and absorb more of the sun’s energy and the ceramic tile acts as a heat sink. More artificial lighting is required, possibly additional cooling needed and certainly more electricity.

A sustainable design and construction team are aware of the design and parts that must be applied before they begin the project. However, given the fact that not only was the new home designed and built to specific parameters, the home will begin to degrade the day the keys are turned over. The homeowner needs to be aware of their responsibilities to ensure continued high performance. And this requires an education about their home and its design and construction parameters (e.g., energy and water conservation measures, indoor air quality equipment and operation). A green lifestyle may require a change in lifestyle. Learning the importance of how to use water and energy to maintaining the sustainable products and equipment are all fundamentally important.




Green Trend Forecasting

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The following article was published by Shawn Hesse, with Emersion Design and the 2008 Chair of the USGBC Cincinnati Chapter.

Over the course of the last 8 years, Green talk has infiltrated everything. The number of ”Green Building” articles in newspapers has jumped from around 1,000 per year in 2000 to more than 9,000 in 2007. More cities and states are adopting green building incentives and policies (like Cincinnati and Ohio). Much of this has been attributed to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Rating system and its success. The USGBC has had a huge impact on the building industry as membership in the organization has grown by 50% every year for the last ten years. But there is something much larger at work in our world than the impact of LEED. Companies ranging from Wal-Mart to Starbucks are touting their sustainability initiatives, and it isn’t just limited to the United States. There are now Green Building Councils in twelve countries on five continents. Somewhere along the way, ‘green’ has crossed the line between a fad and a movement.

Motivations for companies going green vary widely, and aside from the obvious motivation of saving the planet, many organizations have gone green to save money, or even to simply improve their public image. Still others have started talking green just to ride the wave of dollars following as customers seek greener products, vehicles, homes, and offices. So what’s next? Amidst the green buzz, here are several trends in the green movement that visionary businesses should be preparing for.

The first green trend and the reason LEED has been successful, is third party verification. In a time when Chevron and BP make commercials about their sustainability missions, and green-washing claims like ‘all natural’ are everywhere, it is important to have verifiable definitions for what green really is. For buildings, that is LEED, but there are many other important third party verifications for the rest of our lives and businesses. The International Organization for Standardization is developing the 14000 series of ISO standards to define vocabulary and validate processes for product manufacturing and environmental impact management.

The second trend related to going green is rising energy costs. This should go without saying, but energy will only get more expensive before and if it ever gets cheaper. A comparison between investing the same amount of money in the S&P 500 or in energy efficiency for your building puts it all in perspective. Over the last ten years, the S&P 500 Index Fund has increased 36.8% while energy costs have risen 300%.

The phrase ”Blue collar jobs to Green collar jobs” is one of the hottest topics for politicians, and represents the third trend. With the global push for sustainability, the need for solar panel manufacturing and installing, wind turbine manufacturing, green product manufacturing, and an endless list of sustainable business opportunities justifies the name ”the Next Industrial Revolution”.

Finally, savvy businesses recognize that by embracing sustainability at their core, employees will be proud to work there. When your job and your company is about more than just making widgets, a sense of loyalty and pride is inevitable, and as ‘Generation Y’ takes hold in the workforce, with their notorious ‘job-hopping’ tendencies, it is even more important for employers to recognize the recruitment potential of going green before their competitors do.




LEED versus Green

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The following article was published by Greg Raffio, LEED AP, with Heapy Engineering.

Three years ago, my team of graduate engineering students was presenting the energy, environmental, and economic analysis for the construction of a net-zero energy building. The client patiently listened, asked questions, and then dictated a verdict… we had the financial green light. Years of analysis, research, and calculations had paid off.

Next, we assembled a professional design team to take the project from concept to concrete. The house would have it all: net-zero energy use, a sustainable project site, low water use, and sustainable materials. The idea of LEED certification was brought up and immediately dismissed by the team. Why would our building need such a stamp of approval when we knew just how good the design was? No one knew just how wrong we were. Throughout the various stages of design, our student team lamented as the green features were removed. Once completed, the building would retain its net-zero energy status, but had lost all other important green features.

My current projects are larger and more expensive than that small house. But, the values of the lessons learned during my final years as a graduate student are greater than any that I have learned. I have come to realize the true value of the LEED rating system as a necessity to truly attain sustainable (”green”) design.

During my career, I have seen project teams make 70% of the design decisions while spending just the first 1% of the design budget. Thus, it becomes a daunting task to retroactively set project goals … specifically sustainability goals. The less prominent the goal, the more likely the feature necessary to attain that goal will fall by the wayside or be ”value-engineered” from the project.

The LEED Rating System is a tool that a design team uses in order to insure that a project’s green features are properly designed, constructed, and accounted for. Human error pervades the construction process. Examples of such errors include ordering the wrong product, calculation mistakes, or forgetting a step in a process. The LEED process, by no means ensures a perfect building. However, many portions of the LEED process act to significantly decrease such errors. One of the most prominent examples is the commissioning process, which is a service that all owners will benefit from, regardless of project scope, size, or cost.

Once the entire project has been completed, the owner asks, ”What insures that I now own and operate a green building?” If the project has achieved LEED Certification, the team can be certain of their answer. The entire project team knows which goals have been successfully achieved, how much energy and water the building should save, and what type of indoor environment has been created for the building occupants.

A holistic perspective is necessary to grasp the true impact of a third-party rating system such as LEED. The LEED Rating system has two major components. First, LEED promotes general sustainability oriented features such as bike racks and daylighting. Second, LEED is a group of ”best-practice” codes and standards compiled to influence the construction industry. When projects pursue LEED Certification, the market is driven to provide goods and services that attain the standards that have been chosen. Each LEED-Certified project strengthens the green building movement, pushes for products that are less impactful on people and the environment, and enables property owners to truly know just how ”green” their building is.




Integrated Design Process

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The following article was published by Chad Edwards, RA, LEED AP, an Associate at Emersion Design and serves on the USGBC Cincinnati Regional Chapter Board of Directors.

The built and natural environments are inextricably and vitally linked. To create a high performance / sustainable facility, a collaborative design approach is essential for a successful outcome. The Integrated Design Process fosters knowledge-sharing among significant stakeholders during the development of a holistic design and leads to increased project value.

These stakeholders should be comprised of the owner group, key users, facilities directors, programmers, real estate managers, architects, commissioning agents, civil engineers, planners, mechanical engineers, interior designers, structural engineers, construction managers, electrical engineers, plumbing designers, landscape architects, and / or key specialty consultants. The General Contractor and / or the Construction Manager should also be included in this process to encourage the sharing of cost, scheduling and construction knowledge. This will also familiarize the contractor with the construction intent resulting in a more accurate bid and more efficient construction period.

During the traditional approach, design and construction professionals work somewhat independently on their respective area of expertise. One of two things can happen when consultants are added to the design process midstream. The new team member shares expertise that changes the project late in the process, requiring more time, effort and money to back track; or more commonly, the team decides not to pursue the new approach. In either case, the project and the owner suffer a consequence. ‘Value Engineering’ during design and construction becomes the norm, which leads to value loss.

The Integrated Design Process deviates from this traditional approach as it leverages the collective expertise as early as the pre-design phase, where the highest potentials and greatest values are realized. ‘Value’ engineering tends to generate project cuts, which successfully lessen the construction costs, but usually lessen the true value. The Integrated Design Process is vital to a successful work process, which can lessen the damages of ‘value’ engineering.

By bringing all the stakeholders to the design process early, intensive analysis and in-depth investigations can discover complementary and innovative project goals and design strategies when change costs less. This Integrated Design Team establishes project goals together while engaging in a productive exchange of ideas. The team understands, applies and tests these goals throughout the design process.

Stakeholders share their knowledge in multi-day charrette (brainstorming) formats; trade-offs and connections are recognized. Problems are reframed and better solutions are generated by creating an innovative and collaborative environment where each opinion matters. The entire team establishes and meets the project goals, objectives and major solutions. These charrettes frequently become rather lively and informal without jurisdiction. They are investigatory by nature, thoughtfully critiqued and leverage the expertise and resources of the team. Connections are made that typically are not immediately understood, such as how paint color impacts the mechanical load or how building orientation affects human productivity. Sometimes the most effective solutions have the lowest construction cost implications and might be undiscovered in a traditional design process.

By utilizing the Integrated Design Process, deep curiosity, thorough analysis and strategic, technical problem solving prevail, leading to a more comprehensive, cost effective and sustainable facility.




Why Bother with LEED Certification

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The following article was published by Michael Senger, LEED AP, is a Mechanical Engineer with Heapy Engineering. Involved in over 100 LEED projects and with +50 LEED Accredited Professional on staff, Heapy Engineering one of the leading sustainable design firms in the country. Michael is also a Board Member of the Cincinnati Regional Chapter of the USGBC.

Building owners often question the additional time and expense involved with registering a building for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED (Registered)) certification through the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), versus just simply including ”green” features in a project. There are several reasons why owners choose to have their buildings certified through the various LEED Rating Systems. Some building owners feel that environmentally it is the right thing to do. Others make the decision to pursue LEED due to requirements of their own governing body. Still other building owners pursue a financial incentive offered through their local government or parent organization. Essentially, there are three general reasons why building owners should seek Certification: commitment, legitimacy, and marketability.

Commitment. By registering your project with the USGBC you are committing to design and construct your building to the standards and requirements outlined by the LEED Rating System. Your design team and your building’s contractor are then committed to integrating those design features to ensure that your building is more durable, healthy and more energy efficient. Through the rigors of budget, programming, or other project challenges, these ”green” features will remain because you and your team decided to produce a building that merits LEED Certification and national recognition for its sustainability.

Legitimacy. In the face of widespread ”green washing” (ie: the attempt by businesses or individuals to mislead consumers as to the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service), LEED Certification tells your peers, clients and customers, that your building’s sustainable features have been verified by a third party to promote energy conservation, to ensure a healthier indoor environment and to reduce its impact on the environment. LEED is a consensus-based system, meaning one that was commented and voted upon by the USGBC’s diverse membership. It ensures that your project team didn’t just invent the ”green” requirements on your own or design your project to some arbitrary definition of sustainability. Instead, thousands of professionals (there are over 45,000 LEED Accredited Professionals within the USGBC) collaborated, discussed and agreed upon these requirements.

Marketability. A LEED Certified headquarters, branch office, retail location, or elementary school is a strong marketing tool to show the community that your organization is committed to something greater than itself. It demonstrates that you were willing to make the extra effort to not only include those features, but also to have them confirmed – better yet Certified – by a nationally and internationally recognized leader in the field. The LEED Rating System is a tool that can help create a space that will enhance your employees’, clients’, or students’ everyday environment while reducing operating and maintenance costs as well as decreasing its impact on the environment. LEED Certification demonstrates how it was accomplished.




U.S. Green Building Council

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U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) : The U.S. Green Building Council was founded in 1993 by Rick Fedrizzi, David Gottfried and Mike Italiano, three friends with backgrounds in marketing, development and environmental sciences. Today, USGBC is a community comprising 78 local affiliates, more than 18,000 member companies and organizations, and more than 140,000 LEED Professional Credential holders, leading a diverse constituency of builders and environmentalists, corporations and nonprofit organizations, elected officials and concerned citizens, and teachers and students. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a 501 c3 non-profit organization.

Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) : The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) is an independent, third-party organization established in 2008 to administer project certifications and professional credentials and certificates within the framework of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating Systems™. GBCI offers validation that LEED building certifications and LEED professional credentials have met specific criteria.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) : We believe green buildings are the foundation of something bigger: helping people, and the communities and cities they reside in—safely, healthily and sustainably thrive. The heart of our green building community’s efforts must go well beyond construction and efficiency, and the materials that make up our buildings. We must dig deeper and focus on what matters most within those buildings: human beings.

Every single human being on the planet should have safe and healthy places to live, work, learn and play. Leading long and healthy lives is not a privilege—it’s a right for everyone. Shouldn’t the places where we spend 90% of our time support our health and wellbeing? Improved health and productivity benefits are playing a larger role than ever before in driving companies to invest in green building.

LEED Online : LEED Online is the primary resource for managing the LEED documentation process. Through LEED Online, project teams can manage project details, complete documentation requirements for LEED credits and prerequisites, upload supporting files, submit applications for review, receive reviewer feedback, and ultimately earn LEED certification. LEED Online provides a common space where members of a project team can work together to document compliance with the LEED rating system. With the exception of projects registered under LEED for Homes, all projects must be certified using LEED Online.

Greenbuild : The annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo was launched in 2002 as the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building.

How it all Works

One can look at USGBC as the mothership, directing her individual warriors she created solely for administering and regulating her doctrine for sustainability. Currently there are two entities subordinate to USGBC that are responsible, in part, for carrying a large portion of the burden – GBCI (the Green Building Certification Institute) and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

Sustainability in this country, and many other countries throughout the world, is benchmarked by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). LEED defines both the accredited professionals who work in the sustainable field and the degree of sustainability of certified constructed projects. As such, there are two distinct parts to the LEED environment.

One part is the accreditation of professionals who possess knowledge in the field of sustainability. There are three levels, or tiers, of accreditation based on the degree of green knowledge. Tier I is the LEED Green Associate who demonstrates a basic knowledge and skill in practicing green design, construction and development. Tier II is the LEED Accredited Professional with Specialty for those who have an extraordinary depth of knowledge in green building practices and specialization in a specific field. These professionals are designated as LEED AP+, where the + marker indicates the designation for the area of specialization, such as LEED AP BD+C, whereas BD+C indicates Building Design and Construction. The top level, Tier III, is reserved for the LEED AP Fellow, a LEED AP with specialty who has held the LEED AP credential for eight cumulative years and must document a total of at least 10 years of experience in the green building field. Nominees for the LEED Fellow will be nominated by their peers.

The second part of LEED is the certification of sustainable projects, as defined by the various LEED rating systems. Certification is awarded based on the degree of sustainability for the rating system selected by the project team. LEED rating systems cover a broad spectrum of building types, with pilot programs under development for additional rating systems. The LEED New Construction and Major Renovations rating system defines certain types of newly constructed projects, and includes major renovations. LEED for Homes is specific for residential projects, LEED Schools covers schools meeting certain criteria, and so on. For each rating system, there are various levels of certification awarded as determined by the amount of ‘green’ credit points achieved.

The major source controlling these processes is the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). GBCI performs two basic functions. The first is the development and administration of the accreditation examinations for LEED GA or AP candidates. The second responsibility of GBCI is managing the LEED project certification process.

A Snapshot Summary

USGBC: Develops LEED Green Building Rating Systems; Provides and develops LEED based education and research projects

GBCI: Provides third party LEED professional credentials; Provides third party LEED project certification

LEED: The rating systems, specific to the project type, that establish the parameters for certified sustainable projects

USGBC National Membership: Only organizations, corporations or institutions are eligible for national membership

USGBC Chapter Membership: Only individuals are eligible for chapter membership

Accreditation: People are accredited

Certification: Projects are certified

Products: Products are neither accredited nor certified. USGBC, GBCI and LEED neither promotes nor endorses product




Teran Residence – the history

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In April 2009, Rookwood Building Group was approached by a client interested in purchasing a residential building site in the historic Cincinnati hillside community of Mt. Adams. Formerly known as Mt. Ida, its name changed to Mt. Adams in 1843, after John Quincy Adams visited the area to dedicate the world’s most powerful observatory. Mt. Adams sits on one of Cincinnatis seven hills, with commanding views of Cincinnati and the Ohio River. The area was once a working-class neighborhood, populated with blue-collar employers such as an iron foundry, wooden shoe and fireworks factories, the Rookwood Pottery Company, a vineyard and limestone quarries. Mt. Adams once sat 100 feet higher before having its topography changed by mining activities.

Today, given the enchanting diversity of architecture, the steep, narrow streets and the scenic views of Cincinnati and the riverfront, Mt. Adams is highly prized by professionals working in the city and creative individuals such as writers and artists. Other than the commute to work, which for most is a short drive down the hill into the city, everyone walks.

Walk to the dry cleaners, the convenience store, Playhouse in the Park, Eden Park, and to the numerous restaurants and bars. Over the years, several serious attempts have been made to reconstruct the Mt. Adams Incline, running up the hill from the city to Mt. Adams from 1872 until 1948. Older properties suitable for rehab or demolition are overpriced when they do become available. The streets are narrow and parking is extremely limited. Builders frequently have to notify the police department to post no parking signs and, on occasion, shut down a street when large deliveries are scheduled. Typical lot widths in Mt. Adams are 25 feet, with zero to 3 foot side yard setbacks. Get a site located on a hillside and you’ve got your hands full.

After months of detailed research of every available property that fit within the client’s program, a vacant site was selected. The property is approximately 23 feet in width and 126 feet in depth, with 25 feet of fall in grade, front to back and right to left. Soil reports would later confirm the suspected bad to treacherous conditions found in many of the city’s hillside districts. So bad in fact that zoning will not permit any fill depth greater than 18 inches above existing grades. Cincinnati is known for its seven hills, slipping and sliding as they do. However, this is the good news, as all it usually takes to marginalize the issue is money, and lots of it. The client was somewhat fortunate in their purchasing negotiations, given the history of the property and the devastated state of the housing market at the time. The current owner the client was buying the property from had himself purchased the property only one year prior, as an investment. An investment to build a market home from architectural plans the (original) owner previous to him had prepared only two years prior. During the original owner’s negotiations with zoning and building officials, property swaps were made between the city and property owner, utility poles and lines were rerouted. All for the protection of an existing building to the east (right side) – the monstrous Art Academy of Cincinnati. The Art Academy building, a Romanesque Revival school house built in 1894 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was home to the Art Academy of Cincinnati, the museum school of the Cincinnati Art Museum. In 1973 it became the first home for the School for Creative and Performing Arts, Cincinnati’s first magnate school and the first school in the country to combine art studies with a complete college prep academic program. Nick Lachey and Rocky Carroll are two of the schools graduates.

Finally after two years of planning and negotiating, zoning was approved, construction plans were submitted for permitting, and a building permit issued. Having achieved this at a substantial expense, the original owner scraps his investment plans and decides to sell the property, after he had demolished the original house. Then comes along a new owner who gives up his investment plans after a year of watching the housing market fall to lows not seen in Cincinnati since the late 70’s and early 80’s. The client’s ownership of the property included the building plans from two owners past, as well as zoning approval and building permits. So, with this in mind, what the client was also getting was zoning approval and a building permit issued for the construction of a single family residence, within an approved zoning envelope. With the client’s building program established, a preliminary design and budget analysis was presented that was in compliance with the approved zoning envelope and the client’s general program. The initial review of the preliminary with zoning officials of the site plan, floor plans, building elevations and a color rendering was encouraging. As long as the project stayed within the approved zoning envelope, there shouldn’t be a problem receiving zoning approval for the client’s new design. Satisfied with the preliminary design and construction budget, and with the understanding of the potential zoning risks, a contract to purchase the property was successfully negotiated and the client purchased the property.




Teran Residence – the approval processes

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Having prepared the conceptual plans for this residence, it was requested that I make a presentation to the client explaining the merits of a LEED for Homes green construction policy. This perhaps was the easiest sell I had ever been involved in during the all the years working in the residential sector. The City of Cincinnati offers tax incentives to commercial and residential projects that achieve LEED certification. A 15 year tax abatement up to $500,000 for any level of certification. Five minutes and it was a done deal. The client agrees to go for the Certified level at an estimated additional construction cost of $5,000 – $8,000.

After several months of revisions to the building program and with construction documents well underway, the client called one evening to inform her builder she wanted the house moved further back on the site. Ouch. OUCH! Informed that doing so not only pushed the structure further above existing grades at the rear, it moved the project outside the approved zoning envelope, which would necessitate going back to zoning for a variance. The client agreed with this and issued instructions to proceed to zoning.

Now the bad news. Zoning ordinances for the hillside overlay district had been revised since the previous approval, with several requirements being stricter. Now for the really bad news. The Art Academy property had been sold to a developer who was in the process of completing a major renovation of the property – new high end condos. We now had residential zoning on both sides. The foundation of the house on the west (left side) was positioned on the property line, while the Art Academy had a 75 foot setback. The Art Academy is situated at an intersection and, consequently, has two front yards, or perhaps one is a side yard and the other a front yard? Or may be no one knew. Zoning would later reveal they never really understood just how to handle the uniqueness of this building and our project. At any rate, construction documents had to be prepared, complete with new envelope studies and submitted to zoning for a lengthy review and variance process.

With respect to LEED for Homes projects, preparing site engineering and working drawings at this stage is akin to putting the cart before the horse. As for this project, there is less comfort now that this project will receive zoning approval. All aspects of design and construction are under review and subject to change by zoning officials. Project size, building design including exterior materials are at risk and subject to change. However, having experience building homes in Mt. Adams, as well as having a sound knowledge of LEED, there wasn’t a great deal of concern or gamble. If the project was approved as submitted, adding the necessary LEED content to the final construction documents would be a minimal task.

Our written as well as our oral argument to zoning was singular in focus and intentionally short. Side yard setback requirements are calculated as the average of adjoining properties on either side. In our instance, if current zoning ordinance setback requirements were interpreted and imposed as written, our 23 foot wide parcel would be rendered unbuildable. Averaging the two adjacent side yard setbacks produced a setback larger than the width of the property. Now for good news. After a protracted process, zoning approval was granted and the construction documents were submitted to the city and a building permit issued.




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