Photographs courtesy of Finn Team
If you live anywhere in the 45208, you’ve likely driven, biked, or jogged passed this bonkers house (and if you haven’t, you really should). Builders have removed the entire top two floors and porch of the Victorian-era home and added on a modern-style level that completely alters its personality—and environmental footprint. The curiosity was killing us, so we got the scoop on what’s happening at 2872 Erie Avenue.
In addition to the overhauled exterior, there are some serious environmental features going on in this renovation, such as repurposed wood, a water harvesting system, and geothermal heating that cuts energy bills up to 80%.
We talked to builder Jim Bronzie of Bronzie Design and Build to see how they pulled off modernizing a 110-year-old house (with Silver LEED Platinum certification, no less) in a strip of suburban Hyde Park homes.
Click through our gallery to see before, in-process, and after shots:
How old was the previous home? Was any of it saved?
The home was originally built in 1905, but it required a complete gut renovation. We basically ripped off the top two floors and built from the foundation up. The first floor walls were saved and we built walls on the inside of those to give extra width for added insulation.
Why this style?
Simply put, I’m inspired by modern architecture. It’s become very popular to utilize modern interior design practices in new or remodeled homes, but with the Erie project, I wanted to create a cohesive package that stands out.
Was there backlash from neighbors putting an aesthetically different home on a street with traditional, older homes?
Frankly, we’ve received much more positive feedback than negative. For every complaint, we’ve had ten positive comments. People may resist change, but redevelopment is what spurs new energy and growth. When you challenge the status quo, you’re going to get people questioning what you’re doing.
What’s the saying, “The only thing that is constant is change?” I’m not the first person to build something different on the street. In my opinion, the beautiful thing about Erie Avenue is the eclectic collection of architecture from Madison Road to Whetsel Avenue.
Heating a home in Cincinnati is a serious cost. Any idea of the average gas and electric bill for the previous home?
There was no insulation in the original house. The furnace, windows and electrical system were all extremely outdated. I would guess that during a harsh winter the house was extremely inefficient and would have probably cost around $600–$700 a month to heat.
The geothermal furnace is a clean, reliable, and inexpensive way to heat and cool the home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy the system reaches efficiencies around 300% to 600% and can save up to 80% on energy bills.
What is the certification process of becoming Silver LEED Platinum?
Building a Certified LEED Platinum home is not a walk in the park. There are four levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Because this is highest level of LEED certification you can acquire, I will say that it was a costly, difficult process. To the best of my knowledge, there are fewer than seven or eight new construction homes in Cincinnati that are LEED Platinum homes. We are proud to be the first remodeled home in Cincinnati to obtain this status.
How have you made use of local or repurposed materials during this project?
We’re very proud of the many “green” practices we’ve used during construction. We try to use as many local materials as possible. For example, almost all of our lighting comes from a business in OTR and a local Amish craftsman made the hardwood floors. We’re also saving some of the demolished materials from the Erie project to be used for other ventures. All of the floor joists and old wood is saved in a warehouse for use on another project.
For homeowners that want to update their home to be a little more eco-friendly and cost-efficient, but who can’t afford an entire overhaul, what small projects do you recommend?
There are definitely improvements you can make to your home that will vastly change your energy bills over time. We recommend performing an energy audit of your home to see what’s best for you. A simple solution is swapping out your traditional incandescent light bulbs to florescent or LED or installing timers on your light switches to remind you to turn them off. You can do other big changes in lieu of scheduled home maintenance, i.e. installing an energy efficient roof, windows, and furnace at the appropriate times. While these are not always easily affordable, they will likely pay for themselves over their lifetime. Blowing in insulation could also save a lot of money on heating bills if you’re not at a position to gut the walls. Simply renting a machine from a local hardware store and installing it in your attic, as well as fixing any air penetrations would be a fairly easy way to target weak spots in your home’s thermal envelope.
Is there a future for sustainable building in Cincinnati?
We have two new construction homes scheduled right now in Hyde Park with similar style architecture. We also have a couple of new traditional-style homes coming soon in the neighborhood. Our goal is to obtain LEED Platinum status for these projects. My hope is that building sustainable homes will catch on in Cincinnati, but it doesn’t currently appeal to the mass market.
Check the Finn Team website for the listing soon.