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Welcome to the Greenest House in Ohio

Walker Evans Walker Evans Welcome to the Greenest House in Ohio
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A newly built residence located at 258 N. 21st Street, in the NoBo development area of the King Lincoln District, was just awarded its LEED Platinum certification by the USGBC. That makes it the first LEED Platinum residential home in the state of Ohio.

Several weeks ago I was invited to tour the home by Roger Beck, a local Technology Education teacher at Worthington Kilbourne High School who helped to build the home along with students of the college preparatory Home B.A.S.E. (Building Academic Skills and Experiences) class.

It was on Sunday, March 1st when I walked over to take a look at this new home. I remember the morning well as it a mere 20 degrees outside, yet quite sunny. It made for a chilly 10 minute walk, but the stroll down a forgotten section of brick-laid East Spring Street through the middle of the King Lincoln District was otherwise rather pleasant.

At first glance, 258 N. 21st looks quite similar to the other new new NoBo homes recently built along this beautiful street. In fact, two doors down there’s a home built with the same base floorplan. The difference is entirely in the details.

We started the tour in the basement of the home where the most noticeable differences were in the high-tech systems located under the house. Roger excitedly gave me the rundown on how the Xantrex Grid Tie Solar Inverter was quietly working on a day like today to keep the indoor temperature effortlessly maintained. The system was also sending unused electricity back into the grid and keeping the electric bills running in the black. Any ounce of skepticism I had on using solar power in Columbus evaporated at the sight of watching a power meter running backwards.

We moved over to take a look at the hot water system, which Roger shared a laugh about. After they installed the solar thermal pre-heat tank, it was a bit of trouble to have it pass city inspection. He said that the inspector came out, took one look at it, and admitted that he had never seen anything like it before. It required a bit of extra legwork, but everything was eventually approved as being up to code. This system provides 70% of the home’s hot water needs via solar power while a smaller traditional hot water heater serves as a backup.

The 97% efficient furnace was installed by Northtowne Heating and Cooling. Roger mentioned that the ductwork had all been sealed as tightly as possible and that a fresh air intake was installed so that the furnace could regulate the internal air quality if not enough of it was being recycled with outdoor air.

Being a bit of an electronics geek, the one thing that really caught my eye in the basement was a wall panel made of of various switches, routers, boxes, and computer cabling. Roger described the smart electronics system that was wired throughout the house. Every light switch, every outlet, and every ceiling fan is tied into this central system and is programmable and accessible via a secure computer connection or PDA device. The future homeowner could potentially set every light in the house to a timer, as well as monitor the perimeter of the home with a network of security cameras.

As we headed upstairs, Roger noted the extra care that went into completely sealing off and insulating the basement. They used a special technique of adding a layer of foam beneath the basement slab to keep all moisture at bay.

We headed back up to the ground floor of the house which consists of an open floor plan where the kitchen, dining, and living room all share a large open common area. There’s also a half bath and several storage closets on this floor.

Roger described some of the detailed work that went into making sure that the materials being used on the finishes of the home were all sustainable and environmentally friendly. They utilized local materials, such as the maple hardwood floors were donated to the project from Sheoga, an Ohio company. They chose materials that were durable and would not require replacement or maintenance as frequently, such as some of the LED light bulb fixtures in the kitchen that have a 10 year lifespan and use a fraction of the electricity of a traditional bulb. The kitchen cabinets were made from formaldehyde-free wood that was Forest Stewardship Council certified. All of the walls have all been painted with specially purchased no or low VOC paints.

Most of these details were not things that were too apparent on the surface, but they all added up create an environment that would more beneficial for a homeowner in the long term.

As we climbed the stairs to the second floor, Roger noted that the carpets were also specially selected for their non-VOC qualities and the company that manufactures them (Shaw) also has a reclamation and recycling program that will take used carpets to reconvert back into materials for creating new carpets.

The upstairs is divided into three bedrooms and two full baths. The bedrooms had similar finishes with their carpets and paints. The bathroom floors have been finished with recycled-content ceramic tiles, and the toilets are all 1.1 gallon low-flush models that use a special air pump in addition to the water flow.

Next, we went outside to check out the backyard. This home has a detached garage and a fenced in yard. The first thing out back that is sure to catch anyone’s eye is the presence of a rain garden. It was designed specifically for the Ohio rain season and is fed by the downspouts from both the house and garage to keep water management on site. Keeping extra water out of the city’s storm drains helps to reduce erosion, pollution, and flooding. The rain garden is stocked with native Ohio wetland plants that are drought resistant. The yard has been seeded with a low-mow grass mix that requires two cuttings per year and no watering. The backyard also contains a stone patio area for outdoor entertainment, and a built in clothes line along one side of the garage for the option of line drying laundry.

(Note: My photo of the rain garden in March turned out a bit barren looking, but a nicer photo from last summer can be found by clicking here.)

As we headed back through the house and out to the front sidewalk, Roger continued to pepper me with plenty of additional bits of technical detail, cost saving estimates, and stories about the various companies, students, and organizations that made this home possible. I feel as if my writeup has only scratched the surface, but if you’d like to know more – an extremely detailed blog has been kept throughout the lifespan of the project and can be found here: homebase07.blogspot.com.

Additionally, a community open house is scheduled for Thursday, May 21st. More information can be found online at CHPColumbus.org and NorthOfBroad.com.

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