Overview of a Graybach LEED Custom Home Build

The owners wanted to build a custom, LEED certified house within the Cincinnati city limits. After much searching they found a third acre lot in a well-established neighborhood ten minutes from the heart of downtown Cincinnati. The family – an architect and library manager with two young children – designed the home with LEED and accessibility goals in mind.

They decided to include LEED elements in the home for many reasons. They were looking to permanently limit their energy costs by designing a home which required less energy overall to maintain. They wanted to construct a home that established a healthy environment for their kids as well as themselves. They also wanted to take advantage of a 15-year property tax abatement offered in the city of Cincinnati available to homeowners of LEED-certified homes.

Their home includes LEED elements in the following areas:
• Sustainable Sites
• Water Efficiency
• Energy & Atmosphere
• Materials & Resources
• Indoor Environmental Quality
• Innovation and Design Process

Sustainable Sites

• Erosion control during and after construction process to prevent the loss of topsoil due to runoff in sewers. A site-specific erosion plan was designed and our builder utilized various tactics such as barriers created from mulching the invasive shrubs removed at the start of construction. The existing topsoil was seeding with local grasses to reduce erosion during construction by allow the plant roots to help hold topsoil in place. Sediment traps were installed at sewer openings.
• The site selected was well outside local flood zones, was not designated as farmland, was not identified as the habitat of any endangered species, was not within 100 feet of wetlands, and was not formerly public parkland.
• Owner minimized the size of the garage and kept the driveway as short as possible while still meeting established building code setbacks.
• The builder minimized site disturbance whenever possible. The rear area of the lot was undisturbed during construction, retaining much of the forest. Tree removal was minimal and all trees/brush removed were retained onsite for later use in a woodstove or mulched for runoff control.
• The owner designed the home with a tight footprint to minimize the amount of sprawl within the lot lines.

Water Efficiency

• Owners are building bioswales to help treat stormwater onsite.
• Considering an open-grid pavement system to allow for more water percolation on site.
• Landscaping will include native plants to reduce water demand.
• Home uses high efficiency fixtures in all bathrooms and in kitchen
• Owner wanted to include stormwater collection and filter for a greywater system to serve the laundry and toilets, however, Cincinnati’s water works currently forbids this application of the technology. Instead an underground storage tank will collect roof storm water and eliminate use of potable water for onsite irrigation.

Energy & Atmosphere

• The building was designed with energy efficiency and heating/cooling retention in the forefront of the architect’s mind. Structurally Insulated Panels were installed with a R-40 insulation value. The roof has an over R-65 insulation value.
• The Bryant GT-PX Series Geothermal system is efficient: 27.0 EER Cooling and a 4.5 COP Heating. It’s refrigerant is CFC free. This system also included a desuperheater for domestic hot water heating.
• Based upon design calculations, the owner estimates the building will see an over 40% reduction from standard residential energy costs.
• The flooring will be installed on a cement floor over a radiant electric floor so that the office can receive minimal heat during winter workdays, allowing the rest of the house to remain in an ‘off cycle’ to minimize energy demands.
• The owners intend to add solar panels in a later phase of construction and conduit from the roof the mechanical room is installed.

Materials & Resources

• A white roof is installed in order to reduce the heat island effect of dark roofs. (sustainable sites)
• The owner and builder tracked recycling and waste disposal through the process of construction.
• The owner will have a recycling collection area in the house. Cincinnati’s extensive city-wide recycling program includes 96-gallon recycling bins and curbside pickup of recycling.
• Diverting construction waste was also important. LEED requires a calculation to determine how much construction waste was diverted from a landfill. Only ___ has been discarded in a landfill. Everything else has been recycled or reused.
• Recycled cellulose insulation was used in the basements wall and recycled gypsum board was used to finish the walls.
• The owner and builder strove to obtain materials locally, whenever possible, to limit the energy needed to get them to the site. Locally-sourced materials include the structurally insulated panels, the pine used in framing within the house, the poplar trim was from Ohio regional forests.
• The majority of flooring in the house is bamboo – a rapidly renewable resource.

Indoor Environmental Quality

• Indoor air quality is a large issue and there are many ways to protect the air within the home.
• Carbon dioxide detectors will be installed within the house. In addition, the house utilizes only electric appliances, no gas appliances are used.
• The HVAC system is being designed with and Energy Recovery Ventilation system to incorporate fresh air intake and minimize the cost to heat and cool the fresh air. This will lower the interior humidity and prevent mold growth.
• Low-VOC glues and sealants are being selected. This includes the glue for the bamboo floor in the office, where the owner works from home.
• Minimal carpeting is included; however, the selected carpeting meets the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label Indoor Air Quality Test Program.
• All perimeter spaces include at least one operable window and a lighting control per LEED requirements. This allows all residents to have control of their environment.
• In order to maximize interior daylighting, natural daylight is available for all rooms with regular habitation. This was done by a combination of building orientation on site as well as maximizing the perimeter of the house.

Innovation & Design Process
• The owner architect is a LEED accredited professional. LEED certified raters also assisted in the rating process.