Cincinnati gives incentives for green home building

Cincinnati gives incentives for green home building

If you want to build a new home, Cincinnati wants to help - especially if you're building green. In October 2007, the city began offering prospective residents who build their homes to the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED standards a 100-percent, 15-year property tax abatement.

"I'd like to say my motivation was strictly environmental - but the tax abatement was a huge factor," says homeowner Julie Bell, who says she expects to save about $200,000 over the next 15 years in abated property taxes on her Mt. Lookout home, built by John Hueber Homes and one of the first to be LEED certified in Cincinnati.

Utilizing an in-fill lot in a dense neighborhood helped Bell accumulate certification points. The four-bedroom home features structurally panelized construction, high-density insulation, high-efficiency windows and low-flow faucets. Although Bell says LEED added about 3 percent, or $10,000, to the home's overall cost, its energy efficiency is already paying off.

"In my 17-year-old, three-bedroom home, my utilities cost about $280 [per month]," Bell says. "In the new house, my first bill was $125."

An improvement over existing 10-year abatements available for new residential construction valued up to $275,000, any level of LEED certification now qualifies homeowners to abate property taxes for up to $500,000 of their home's value. Potential homeowners seeking to build a home valued at or above $500,000 must certify their homes as LEED platinum to qualify.

Although originally an effort to stymie declining population trends, the latest abatement is paving the way for a new generation of home construction.

"With the abatement, it's easier getting the homeowner on board," says Hueber Homes vice president Andrew Hueber, adding that the construction firm has four LEED-certified already complete and more planned. Overall, about a dozen more homes are in the certification process in Cincinnati, according to Sanyog Rathod, an architect and USGBC volunteer who promotes the benefits of LEED for Homes.

Hueber Homes' latest project, an available $1.45 million four-bedroom home in Hyde Park, garnered a silver-level certification. It achieved points for geothermal heating, structurally insulated panels, low-maintenance pest-resistant landscaping and on-demand water heating. The firm's on-site construction waste reduction program, including recycling and transforming leftover drywall into a gypsum soil amendment, also scored design points.

For a home high on durability and efficiency, but lower on price, there is Cincinnati Northside Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation's identical pair of LEED-built homes in Cumminsville. Each two-story, three-bedroom home was constructed using sprayed foam for maximum structural insulation efficiency, bamboo flooring, no-VOC paint and cabinetry, and high-efficiency furnaces.

"These homes will use 40 to 60 percent less energy," says project architect Alice Emmons. A part of CNCURC's goal to revitalize Cincinnati's northside, the homes cost about $275,000 to build but are expected to be offered at around $200,000, well within the neighborhood's median home price range.

"Northside Community's vision is truly commendable for striving to achieve both affordable and sustainable goals," Rathod says.

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Green building for new homes

The LEED for Homes rating system, which officially launched in November, promotes the design and construction of new houses that use less energy, water and natural resources, create less waste and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

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