The building, which dates from the late 1800s and encloses 6,600 square feet on three floors, had sat abandoned for years, its interior gutted to the structural brick walls. It was slated for demolition when it caught the interest of MC3, a local development group.
MC3’s Mike Berry says that he and his business partners believed that the building’s location within the city’s Northside Historic District would make it marketable with a mix of residential and commercial space. So they bought it in 2009 with the plan of turning it into four condos and a street-level storefront. The units would be distinctly different from one another, ranging in size from 720 to 1,880 square feet, with prices from $130,000 to $230,000. They would feature open floor plans with modern amenities, private outdoor spaces, tiled bathrooms, hardwood floors, and custom millwork.
Berry says that the building was very well constructed, a fact that figured in MC3’s decision to invest in it. “It was amazingly solid.” It would require some exterior work—rebuilding cornices, relining gutters, a new roof—but the structure itself was stable and watertight.
Deciding on Certification
A solid structure in a desirable location would have been enough for most developers, but MC3’s partners believed they could add additional value by seeking LEED certification for the completed renovation.
“After talking with realtors and marketing people, we realized that certification would appeal to buyers,” says Berry. They had been involved with other green buildings, and liked the fact that Cincinnati offers a property tax abatement for buyers of LEED certified projects. Despite the extra 5% to 10% he says this added to project costs, he calculated that the combination of tax breaks and energy savings meant that buyers would save money in the long run.
The LEED process includes an initial plan review, in-progress inspections, and a final blower door and duct leakage tests. LEED takes a broad view of a building’s environmental impact and gives points for items that range from energy and water efficiency, to the type of materials used, to jobsite recycling and the availability of public transportation. MC3 took advantage of all of these.
An Energy Star rating is a bare minimum for LEED, and the goal for Bridgeview was to go well above that minimum with a well-insulated, airtight building envelope and high-efficiency HVAC systems. Exterior walls were framed with metal studs, held a few inches away from the brick wall to create a thermal break, and the entire cavity filled with wet blown cellulose insulation. The bottom plates of all walls were caulked and sealed. Window openings were fitted with high efficiency Pella units. Each condo got its own 95% efficient Carrier gas furnace with a high-SEER cooling coil.
According to Alice Emmons, the project’s LEED consultant, MC3 took great pains to minimize landfill waste. “All the packaging was recycled. They even recycled the wrappers from workers’ lunches,” she says. Some of the old lumber found in the building—mostly floor joists that needed to be replaced—was de-nailed and milled for railings and other finish details on the third floor unit. Some of the old bricks were also used for interior partitions. The rest of the torn-out materials were brought to a local recycling center.
Green products used in the building included:
• Drywall with recycled gypsum from a plant near Pittsburgh. (LEED gives points for materials sourced within 500 miles.)
• Sherwin Williams’ Pro Green 200 Low-VOC interior latex paint.
• Bamboo flooring: To provide a bit more depth than the standard bamboo floor, the team used dyed bamboo on the third floor and regular natural on second floor and townhouse.
• Recycled countertops. The countertops were either Cosentino’s Eco brand, with 75% recycled content from post-industrial or post-consumer materials and held together by an environmentally friendly corn-oil resin, or Stone Technologies’ Ice Stone, which is made from 100% recycled glass in concrete matrix.
• Ikea cabinets made with low-VOC adhesive.
• Energy Star Frigidaire dishwashers and refrigerators.
• Glacier Bay dual flush toilets.
• Kohler Simplice kitchen faucets with low-flow aerators.
• WaterSense certified Delta showerheads.
• Radiance Exterior Wood. This product consists of yellow pine that’s kiln baked until its internal sugars are caramelized to the point where they are inedible to insects. It effectively treats the wood without the need for chemical preservatives.
Price Versus Value
According to project architect Chris Cain, one of MC3’s partners, all of these choices were carefully analyzed and a number of tradeoffs made between price and value. For instance the Glacier Bay toilers were a relatively inexpensive compared to other low-flow brands. However, the countertop choices were on the pricey side. “We could have gotten cheaper countertops, but these products helped with the overall feel of the space,” he says.
One place where they had to forego points, according to Cain, was interior lighting, mostly because they couldn’t find LED or CFL fixtures that were acceptable from a design standpoint. “Lighting design hasn’t quite caught up with technology. All the fixtures we found that were acceptable were reversible to incandescent, which were ineligible for LEED points.”
On the other hand they actually gained some unexpected points. “We got some points simply because the building was near a bus line,” says Cain. “And Alice Emmons, our consultant, told us that we would get additional points for a place to store bicycles. That swayed us to include ground-floor storage units for each apartment.”
Cain worked closely with Emmons to ensure that the final point score was well above what was needed. In fact when we spoke with her in late February she was in the process of submitting the documentation to LEED. Although the review can take a few months, she expected the project to handily earn a Gold rating.
To view this article as it appears in our May 2011 issue, with additional photos and sidebars, please visit our Magazine Archive.