Cincinnati Offers Incentives to Energy Efficient Projects

Sun December 16, 2007 - Midwest Edition
CEG



CINCINNATI (AP) The practice of tailoring buildings to meet specific requirements for “green” certification is growing, and city leaders are responding by implementing incentives for companies and organizations to undertake energy efficient projects.

In Cincinnati, a new ordinance took effect on Oct. 23 granting a 100 percent, 15-year property tax abatement for all buildings certified by an industry standard known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

The popularity of such buildings has grown as building owners look for ways to curb rising utility costs, with some builders agreeing to higher construction costs in exchange for long term benefits through the reduction of energy costs.

“There’s definitely been a real pickup in the momentum, especially in the past year,” said architect Greg Hutzel, chair of the Cincinnati Regional Chapter for the Green Building Council.

The nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council developed the LEED ratings to promote water conservation, limit waste, increase energy efficiency and other sustainable building practices. In the Cincinnati area, 12 building sites have met LEED criteria, and roughly another 100 projects statewide are seeking LEED certification.

The largest LEED certified building in the area is the University of Cincinnati’s new student recreation center. Situated on land that used to have a parking lot and power plant, the new 350,000 sq. ft. facility features simple concrete flooring — less wasteful than carpeting — and lets light stream in through massive skylights and plentiful windows.

An underground cistern collects rainwater that is used to run the center’s sprinkler system.

“We converted the outside into beautiful green space, and inside you have very simple, durable materials that last long and don’t consume a lot of energy,” said Don Cornett, vice president of KDF Designs, which drew up the building. “Really, what you have is this great transition into the conservation of natural resources.”

Builders recycled 75 percent of the waste generated at the site.

The concept of green building is garnering more interest from clients at his architectural firm, Hutzel said.

“They’re coming to us already hearing about the benefits, which includes things like better indoor air quality and lower operating costs,” he said.

The operating costs may be lower in the long run, but that might mean a hike in construction costs. Plus, a $2,500 registration fee and other costs from the building council, Hutzel said.

Ordinances like Cincinnati’s tax abatement help defray costs and make green buildings attractive to property owners.

“That has definitely been a key thing because it’s such a huge financial incentive for the [property] owners,” Hutzel said.

Because some of the techniques used in commercial construction do not translate easily or affordably into residential building, the Greater Cincinnati Home Builders Association is developing a separate set of green building criteria for residential construction.

“Anything that you do in the market, you have to consider how affordable it is and what the consumer is willing to pay,” said Dan Hendricks, the group’s executive director.

The group will seek the input of the national home builders association before finalizing the residential standards, Hendricks said.