Cleveland architect focuses on green building

Cleveland architect focuses on green building

by Kristy Esch

Kevin Dreyfuss-Wells got an early introduction to sustainable design and energy conservation when he attended a solar energy conference with his mom in the sixth grade.

"She always found ways to keep us challenged," he says.

Now at age 38 and as project manager for City Architecture, his days consist of making Greater Cleveland buildings and homes as green as they can be. So when it came time to design a new home for himself, wife Kyle and 6-year-old son Fenner, Kevin didn't hold back.

"I want to help preserve this planet for my son's future," he says.

With the help of builder Blossom Homes, Kevin is expecting to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Homes gold certification by early summer. He'll be one of the first homeowners or builders in Northeast Ohio to obtain a LEED for Homes rating because only a handful have registered their projects - so far. However, developers are also in the first phase of construction on three LEED neighborhoods in Cleveland featuring 1,200 green homes.

Kevin's 1,750-square-foot house in Shaker Heights is the ultimate in energy efficiency. It includes polished concrete floors with radiant heat, Knauf batting and Perimeter Plus blown-in insulation, a Weil-McLain boiler system and Jeld-Wen low-e, argon-filled windows.

"We're getting a lot of bang for our buck," Kevin says. "My home was more expensive than the average builder house per square foot, but a green home can be done inexpensively. It depends on what you incorporate. I paid $13,000 for my heating system, but it will save me energy costs in the future."

Saving energy is at the top of the agenda for Cleveland, too. In November, Mayor Frank Jackson announced that the city needed to go "green" by creating homes that are affordable to operate and maintain, energy efficient, healthy and accessible. Jackson's also backing the LEED neighborhood developments in Flats East Bank, St. Luke's Pointe and Upper Chester.

The projects, including two that City Architecture is helping to plan and design, are expected to cost $750 million and will feature, besides 1,200 homes, walkable communities and retail space.

"Green building is gaining in acceptance, but it's not exploding because we're one of the top 10 cities who were hit hardest by subprime mortgages," says Andrew Watterson, director of the city's Sustainability Program. Even with a struggling market, Watterson says Cleveland needs to create tougher standards in order to help the community become sustainable.

He adds that in 2010 all new residential construction must meet Energy Star requirements to receive the 100 percent, 15-year property tax abatement, which they currently offer to anyone who builds in the city. Even with the strict standards, city officials believe developers will see the other green aspect in building green - the cash savings. With the establishment of entire LEED neighborhoods, they also hope the public will see the value of eco-friendly living.

"Building these neighborhoods is a catalytic event for the community to understand what green building is - it will be very visible," Watterson says. "This is very exciting."

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