Photos and post by Krista Nutter for the USGBC Green Home Tour Series
The Southwest Ohio USGBC Residential Green Building Committee’s March 2017 green home tour showcased the Hampton Residence on Walnut St. in the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati, an 1860 Italianate structure with three full floors, an unoccupied attic loft, roof-top deck and a full basement. The home was originally built as a 6-unit tenement property, but has been renovated into a single family home. The hosts of the tour were owner/architect Steve Hampton (GreenBau principal) and his wife Jennifer Parr. From the beginning of the tour presentation, it was clear that visitors would be learning lessons in patience and compromise.
Hampton purchased the property in 1999 for $5,000. At that time he stabilized the structure and rebuilt the roof to make the structure water tight. The rest of the renovation would have to wait, as Hampton worked on other projects and as he says, “life got in the way” for a while. After 15 long years of patience, and plenty of time to perfect the design in theory, the time became right to begin the restoration in earnest. The renovation was essentially a total gut renovation with Hampton salvaging as much of the original building as possible. The owners began by opening up the interior and addressing the energy efficiency and sealing of the building envelope. They chose high efficiency dual-pane replacement windows with true divided lites in a matching pattern to the original windows, and a product called InSoFast, a foam insulation panel, to insulate the interior side of the original 8 to 12 inch brick masonry exterior walls. The south shared “party wall” of the home (the wall the home shares with the adjacent building) was left as exposed brick. The roof was insulated with 9-10 inches of closed cell spray foam insulation, and a new basement floor slab was poured over two inches of foam insulation, after drainage and waterproofing measures were completed.
The primary heating source for the residence is zoned hydronic radiant floor heating supplied by a 95% efficiency natural gas fired boiler located in the basement. Each floor is designated as a separate zone with its own thermostat, as is the master bathroom. The boiler also supplies hot water to the domestic hot water system throughout the house as well. Another feature on the domestic hot water system is a closed loop recirculation system to keep the water in the lines – so that fixtures on the upper floors, far away from the basement boiler do not have to waste water by needing to wait for cold water to run out of the lines before the hot water arrives on the fourth floor powder room. To install the radiant floor heating, PEX flexible plumbing lines were installed on the existing subfloor and were then embedded by pouring 1 ½” of gypcrete or a type of lightweight concrete, followed by a glue-down ¾” tongue and groove oak wood floor. The original wood floors having been lost to water damage allowed the home owners to use the gypcrete product which, because of its thermal mass, increases the efficiency of the radiant system by assisting the heat distribution evenly. Gypcrete also provides significant acoustic sound reduction, fire resistance, and floor leveling. For back up heating (on days when the radiant system might prove to be too slow to respond to Cincinnati’s significant temperature swings, there is a heat pump and air handler which also provides ventilation and air conditioning in the summer. The home also features a Heat Recovery Ventilation unit (HRV) to increase efficiency of stale air removal, and fresh air intake and distribution. The air handler and HRV are located in a mechanical closet on the unoccupied fourth floor.
The layout of the home is a significant change to a home of this era. Hampton and Parr revealed that a compromise between modern and historic details played a significant role in the entire renovation – including the layout of spaces. Upon entering the side entrance to the first floor of the residence, visitors are welcomed into a small foyer with a staircase leading to upper floors. To the front of the house is a home office and to the back of the house is a bath and guest bedroom. In the foyer is also access to a set of stairs leading to the basement. Taking the stairs to the second level, visitors find the master bedroom and bath, a main bath, and an additional bedroom. Continuing up to the third level, visitors reach the main living area including the living room, kitchen, dining area, and den. The stairway continues up to the unoccupied fourth floor where there is access to the mechanical closet, loft overlook, powder room, and a door to the rooftop deck. The central core on all floors from basement to the fourth floor is a future elevator shaft. Currently, the shaft serves as a huge storage closet on each floor. The floor structures on each floor of the closet can be removed to accommodate a residential elevator, and an elevator pit was planned in the basement when the new slab was poured. The possibility of a future elevator speaks to the planning and importance placed on longevity as a concept of sustainability. (You can read my article about longevity as sustainability here.)
The Hampton Residence also illustrates how historic properties can support sustainable concepts. Consider material reuse, the use of local materials (bricks, lumber, etc.) and labor, and a design that emphasizes natural ventilation. In addition, the home’s location is located within a densely populated urban area, near public transportation and services, so it fares favorably in the Neighborhood and Linkages areas of the LEED for Homes rating criteria. The project is currently in the approval phase of LEED H Certification, and Hampton is hopeful for the anticipated LEED Silver approval. The city of Cincinnati tax abatement for LEED certified properties are a significant incentive to design sustainably and seek certification.
Hampton and Parr also designed the interiors themselves, utilizing Hampton’s architectural training and emphasizing the art of compromise. They vowed to keep as many historic elements that they could, but juxtaposed them with modern design elements as well. Nowhere is this more evident that in the 3-story stairwell with original railing details, plaster, and exposed brick walls, directly adjacent to modern stainless steel cable railing and translucent colored glass panels. The way other small historic and modern details play off of each other reminds visitors that the home is both from the past and present.
You can see a list of vendors and products recommended by the tour homeowner here. Provided as part of the Southwest Ohio Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council’s 2017 Green Home Tour series.
About the author: Krista Nutter, (LEED AP, MS Arch, NCIDQ ) is a design educator and administrator at a CIDA-accredited program, a sustainable building consultant, and designer/owner of an award-winning, Energy-Star 5+, passive solar, solar electric, high-performance green home in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her home was on the USGBC Cincinnati Green Home tour in 2015. Learn more about it at the house blog. See Krista’s complete photo album of this home tour here pix.sfly.com/CRjw-jEk .
Videos by Chuck Lohre March 18, 2017, the day of the tour.