Topic: smart growth and new urbanism

LEED homes in Northside

We’ve mentioned these local green houses before, but here are some photos of the Northside LEED green residences taken during the EcoBags Lunch Series organized by ENCORE.  Both homes are under contract, but it’s still worth an inside look at what makes these places unique.

The homes from the front yard on a beautiful summer day.  Notice the drought tolerant and native plants in the landscaping.

Insulation is key to high energy efficiency.

Quality HVAC systems are designed to use minimal power.

My personal favorite: a dual flush toilet to save water where you use the most.  Choose a half flush for #1 and whole flush for #2.

High windows provide natural light for the room and a way out for hot air when opened.

Jami and Libby, the realtors who put together ENCORE in the kitchen of the second house.  Check out the bamboo floors, responsible cabinetry, Energy Star appliances, and the recycled material countertops.

More love for the Cincinnati Streetcar plan

The Director of the Economics Center for Education and Research at the University of Cincinnati recently worked to provide testing to support the positive outcome of the Cincinnati Streetcar feasibility study presented in 2007. In a nutshell, George Vredeveld’s work says:

Cincinnati is on the right track in considering a streetcar system, according to Vredeveld. The likely average net economic payoff of $315.8 million, as estimated by HDR over a 35-year period, is sound, as is HDR’s most conservative net economic payoff estimate of $186.8 million over 35 years. Even if this most conservative payoff comes to pass, “the proposed streetcar system is economically worthwhile,” said Vredeveld.
From the UC News online.

This week’s guest blogger on Soapbox Cincinnati is Councilman Chris Bortz. His first entry is a piece with more information supporting the Streetcar initiative. Here are his concluding remarks:

Why build it? You’ve heard the arguments. We need more money to keep the pressure on crime, close the health gap, improve workforce development, and combat blight. We need more residents and more jobs. A streetcar, according to the experts, will help create those jobs and attract those residents and generate those new dollars as well as position our city in a competitive, global economy, create walkable neighborhoods, attract young professionals, stimulate residential development, energize retail, reduce parking pressures and alleviate traffic congestion. But my favorite reason to do this? To tie together all the investments we have already made or are making. We can physically connect them.
From Cincinnati Soapbox.

These are convincing arguments for a small leg of city mass transit, and all without specifically mentioning gas prices or the environment. That’s a good indicator of the right thing to do - when it makes sense economically, socially, and environmentally. Remember the triple bottom line: people, the planet, and profits working together to create sustainability.

Will you revive a classic?

The easiest way to reduce waste and consumption of materials is to make what you already have last forever.  Give Back Cincinnati is taking that one step further with their latest event: Save the Emery.

The Emery Theater on Central Parkway and Walnut in Over The Rhine was an elegant theater built in 1911 which has not been in a good enough condition to use for over a decade.  Instead of razing the property to create a new building the plan was to convert the adjacent school building into housing and eventually restore the theater.

Your elbow grease can make the difference between a musty, dormant old room and a living classic theater.  Help keep this historic neighborhood in use.  Want to get involved?  Check out the details on the Give Back Cincinnati website.

I Make Cincinnati Green - Land Planning edition

This week our I Make Cincinnati Green section will introduce you to an individual who is working on preserving greenspace and promoting green building throughout the county.

Meet Dean Neimeyer.

Do you make Cincinnati green? Submit your answers to the three questions below with a picture.

  1. Who are you?
  2. How do you make Cincinnati green?
  3. What’s on your wish list for a greener Cincinnati?

Downtown dogs get their day in the sun

Plans for a downtown dog recreation area are in full swing. This is a great green move for the city because it makes living in a dense urban area a bit easier and more enjoyable for pet owners. There is no reason you should have to live in a house with a large yard to keep a dog happy. Besides, green space in the urban core is always a good idea to help reduce the urban heat island effect and improve absorption of storm water to prevent sewer overflow. Click on the image below to see a larger version of the proposed layout of the plan, which will lie behind the parking desert at the corner of Eggleston and Reedy.

This past weekend a dog recreation area fund raiser challenged urban pets to show their stuff. The “best kisser” and “best trick” competitions were particularly entertaining.

Guinness with owner Susan Griffiths

This obedient Pomeranian did not win for his talent, but made all the women in the crowd exclaim “awww”.

Great work by all involved in the Downtown Residents Council, city, and Cincinnati Parks, to get this project moving forward.

Ideas to reduce Cincinnati driving

Carol Coletta of Smart City was recently the guest blogger on the Soapbox Cincinnati website. Her second post mentioned that a huge way to decrease pollution and climate change in a city is to reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). The average individual currently drives 12,000 miles per year. Carol suggests that an ideal goal for VMT in a modern city is 3,900 miles per year.

But what can be done to create an adequate incentive to encourage Cincinnatians to reduce their annual automobile driving miles by more than two-thirds?

An effort of this magnitude would have to be powerfully supported and encompass the participation of the entire county. We have a few ideas to start the brainstorming:

  1. Massive contests. Perhaps the government can ask individuals to register their current odometer numbers in conjunction with renewing your auto tags. When your annual renewal comes up the next year, turn in your new mileage counter and be entered into a drawing to win a gas card. Any individual who drives 5000 miles or less in that one year is entered to win a new (highly fuel-efficient) car.
  2. Tiered individual incentives. Individuals who wish to participate agree to visit an official booth once every 6 months to have their odometer mileage recorded. For each visit that you reduce your annual VMT or stay below the 5000 annual miles threshold, you receive a gift (Reds tickets, gas card, free vanity plate, or a donation made in your name to Ohio Wildlife). If after 3 years you have reduced your VMT by 2/3, you are entered into a drawing to win a major prize (a new fuel efficient car, a $5000 tax credit, or a free bus pass for life).

Any other ideas?

LGC at the Great American Cleanup

Live Green Cincinnati team members recently helped with the Great American Cleanup down by the Cincinnati riverfront. Brianne took a few moments to speak to Chris Wiedeman, a member of the Downtown Resident’s Council about the project.

This is our first try at a video pod in our article feeds, so please inform us if you have trouble viewing the video below. Thanks in advance.

Climate Committment Presentation

This just in from the University of Cincinnati sustainability website:

The UC community is invited to participate in the third in a series of presentations on the issue of climate change, with this latest event taking place on May 20.

“Climate Commitment 101″ will be held from noon-1 p.m. in the MainStreet Cinema in Tangeman University Center. Speakers include UC President Nancy Zimpher and Visiting Associate Professor Adrian Parr, who will present “The Politics of Sustainable Design.”

Take your lunch break and learn more about some details in UC’s commitment to the environment.

Car free and carefree, even in Cincinnati

The Queen City is changing, and every person here has the opportunity to make a difference. This column is meant to demonstrate how life can be lived well and with a low environmental footprint. Yeah, maybe global warming is going to make you sweat this summer, but no need to panic get your head out of the paper bag, grab your canvas bag, and live green Cincinnati!

There is no doubt that Cincinnati and the areas surrounding it are heavily dependent on cars. As for me, I sold my car three years ago, shortly after I put my name on the deed for a place downtown. This turned out to be an incredibly smart decision, as the $8000 per year which AAA says is the average cost of owning a car annually goes directly into the equity of home ownership.
Not having a car of my own is not difficult, but it does require a bit of planning. Here are a few of my tips for how to prepare to go without your car successfully:

  • Live near where you work. Or work near where you live and play. Being able to walk, catch a bus, or ride your bike to the office will save you cash and get you exercise. Better yet, find a neighbor going in the same direction, and make going to work an active social occasion.
  • Share. Find a friend, neighbor, or family member with whom you can car-share or use the ride-share program. Take turns driving the carpool. I was able to find someone in my building to enter into a car-sharing agreement with so that I can drive myself somewhere in a pinch. Companies like ZipCar operating as nearby as Columbus combine car rental with car-sharing to give people even more flexibility.
  • Take mass transit. Learn the nearby bus routes. Find stores and amenities you need along the transit routes so you can easily get what you need. At an average cost of $0.52 per mile for driving, according to that same 2007 AAA report, the cost of taking the bus is very often less than the cost of driving. For instance, taking the Metro between downtown and Clifton or the TANK shuttle to Covington and Newport is super easy, and I can get to the grocery store, the hospital, retail stores, the movies, friends’ homes and many other places from those quick routes for less than the cost of driving and parking.
  • Leg it. Walking and riding your bike can be much more enjoyable than driving. Treat yourself to a pair of walking sneakers or a durable bike. My personal motto is this: “If you can see it, you can get to it.” This has actually created many fun adventures and unexpected discoveries both around Cincinnati and in other cities. I wouldn’t be renowned in my office for knowing where to eat lunch if I always walked the same path home.
  • Barter with friends. Offer to pay for gas or lunch if someone else drives. Begging for rides is not cool, but carpooling or splitting the burden is. Do something nice for someone who offers to drive. I often just happen to have an “extra ticket” to a show or movie if my companion for the evening is willing to swing by and pick me up on his or her way to the destination.
  • Go urban. You don’t have to live downtown to take advantage of a well-situated neighborhood for the carless. Many other parts of town, such as Clifton, Northside, Mt. Healthy, Mariemont, Oakley and Covington, have great, dense “towns” situated around a main street. These new urban-type neighborhoods often can provide just about anything you might need in a short walking range from where you live, they sit right on a convenient bus line, and they offer lots of social interaction.

If you’re up for the challenge, try it without your car for a few days. Heck, if you feel brave, go carless for a week! I have a good friend whose car was unfortunately totaled a few months back (luckily he was not hurt), and he used that as a catalyst to try living without a car. Months later, he’s happily joined the ranks of the Cincinnati car-free without looking back.

One day this week, I realized how much freedom being in an urban area without an automobile afforded me. On any given day, I walk to work, meet friends at a local lunch diner, stop into a drug store to pick up milk and cereal, take a bike ride over to Newport, make dinner at home, and end the evening around the corner to get coffee and chat with my neighborhood barista. No gas money. No parking. No traffic.

Lots of fresh air and personal interactions.

So go car free and carefree. I highly recommend it.

Originally printed in the April 15th issue of Pulse DT.

Bigger isn’t greener

This posting from Building Cincinnati makes an important point about green residential building.

“Even “eco-fitting” a 3,000-square-foot house doesn’t necessarily make it eco-friendly - a 2005 analysis in the Journal of Industrial Ecology concluded that one of these homes, even if rated as super-efficient, consumes 50 percent more energy that a 1,500-square-foot house built only to mediocre energy standards. “

Here’s an idea, maybe the city and county can develop to the environment’s needs and still create world-class living space. How about planning an eco-amazing home-a-rama 2012 on The Banks, and enforce a 2000 square foot maximum living space size limit? The stage is set for New Urbanism to meet the critical mass of Cincinnati residents.