Ohio Near The Top For Energy And Environmentally Efficient Homes

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LEED homeowner advocates for more green homes like this one on North 21st Street in Columbus.(Photo: Debbie Holmes)
LEED homeowner advocates for more green homes like this one on North 21st Street in Columbus.(Photo: Debbie Holmes)

Energy efficient home building is on the rise in Ohio. The group that certifies green building says Ohio ranks number 6 in the country in the number green homes. Over the last four years, the number of so-called LEED certified has increased 8 and a half times. But some builders and state lawmakers question whether LEED should be the standard.

Catherine Girves enjoys showing off her home in Old Towne East. She and her family moved in last November. The 1,300 square foot, three bedroom home was built several years ago as a show model for other LEED homes.

LEED kitchen

“This is the first LEED platinum home in the state of Ohio,” says Girves.

LEED – Stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design . It’s a building certification program that ranks the environmental impact of buildings. The more energy efficient, the higher the LEED ranking. The higher use of sustainable materials, the higher the ranking. The levels range from silver to gold to platinum.

“All of the floors you’re looking at and with the open floor plan you can see the cabinets in the kitchen, these are all from Ohio grown forests. It’s with sustainably grown forests. So they were locally sourced, sustainably grown.”

The windows in Girves’s home are well insulated and smaller than standard size. Her metal roof will last 50 years. Solar panels on the roof heat water and provide electricity. Her back yard is designed to collect and divert storm run-off.

LEED hot water tanks in basement

“We really get to be innovators. We really get to showcase what some of the new technology, and things that folks were doing 100 years ago when they were building; siting the houses in particular ways to actually pick up the cross ventilation so you didn’t have to rely on air conditioning as much. And then other newer technologies like the solar arrays that are on the roof,” explains Girves.

Columbus is home to more than 500 LEED certified residences, most of them are multi-family structures.

Tyler Steele is the chairman of the Columbus chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council – the group responsible for LEED standards.

Garden at LEED home

“It’s a holistic approach so it’s difficult to say if you do this you get certified that, that’s not really how it works. It’s more of a laundry list of objectives. So we’re trying to get a 10% more water efficient building, how do we do that,” says Steele.

Green homes cost a more to build. A 2008 study by McGraw-Hill Construction shows on average green homes cost 24 percent more than other homes.

But supporters of LEED certified homes claim owners can save up to sixty percent in energy costs.

LEED living room

Not everyone thinks LEED should be the benchmark for energy efficiency.
State lawmakers are debating whether Ohio should support LEED standards.

Vice President of the Ohio Home Builders Association, Vince Squillace wants a full evaluation.

“I’m not being critical of LEED. You know there are some builders who go out there and build according to LEED. And I’m sure there are some benefits that can be expressed as the homes are sold. But there are also basic energy standards that do a great job do in terms of energy efficiency and the performance of a home,” says Squillace.

Squillace says Ohio homeowners will ultimately decide what they want and whether the energy benefits of LEED are worth it.

Homeowner Catherine Girves has decided they are.

“Economically it just makes sense and it’s very confusing to me why you would not want the economic benefits,” SAYS Girves.

  • Tim Bass

    A shame the coverage of this story was so biased – or at the very least bad.
    The news omitted: WHAT LEED Means, WHY someone would do it, WHO does it, HOW one achieves LEED, WHEN it is appropriate.

    What it did present after stating the headline fact was two arguments against LEED and a false comparative effort between LEED and energy standards.

    LEED is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is not an energy standard. It aims to provide a metric for SUSTAINABLE DESIGN practices – noir just energy savings. The energy model the housing association speaker mentioned is only ONE of several metrics in a LEED analysis.

    Also, while it is true the first cost of a LEED project may be slightly higher, there is ample documentation that the pay back is tangible and far exceeds the expense over the life of the project.

    The benefits to the planet are immeasurable.

  • Bob Kroshefsky

    I don’t disagree with Tim. However, you have to keep in mind that this is a 3.5-minute radio story and it spends a lot of time playing “quote” clips. How much more detail can one cram into such a short piece? It really needs the 8-minute time slot that NPR used to give to many stories. But stories for WOSU can’t begin to hope to get that much time. And, I’m concerned that the younger audience that public radio needs to attract may not have a long enough attention span for such stories.