Green with Energy

Custom builders join forces to bring Cincinnati its first-ever custom green home show


ecycle the images of upscale builders competing to sell McMansions on postage-sized lots in distant suburbs. The city of Cincinnati and six custom builders have concocted a new home show geared toward making your lifestyle convenient, affordable, rewardable and environmentally friendly.

Owners, builders and designers from Somerset Custom Homes, Pinnacle Custom Building, Osterfeld Construction, Carroll Custom Builders, Black Diamond Construction and Andrew James Builders combined their familiarity of LEED Certification, understanding of Energy Star Appliances, utility systems and eco-friendly building practices to create a confluence of top-of-the-line homes sealed with the approval of Mother Nature (OK, and the U.S. Green Building Council). After bouncing ideas back and forth every Wednesday for a year, organizers walked out of one lunch meeting with a brainchild that was the first ever of its kind: GREENarama.

“There’s a new economic reality and new sensitivity with people and green building,” says Andy Riffe, President of GREENarama and co-owner of Andrew James Builders. “An important component that I wanted to address in this was educating the people on green building.”

The builders not only wanted to give people an eco-product but also wanted to make sure the consumers knew exactly what they were buying and how these green features operate. They constructed an exhibit house — a half-completed home showing the inner mechanisms of features such as geothermal heating, insulation and ventilation systems. Attendees will also get a fresh, raw look at how things work with live, hands-on demonstrations.

“We’ve used low voc paints, low-flow faucets and showers, recycled counter tops, and there’s even a programmable shower and bathtub,” Riffe says. “You can start the bathtub with a remote in the morning and set it to the water temperature you prefer. You’re actually saving water by setting the temperature and water level that you want. The homes are very technically driven to very simple.”

After the show’s final day, the public will have the opportunity to buy the finished exhibit house for roughly $515,000. The new homeowners even get to ingrain their personality into the structure by picking out their preferred fixtures, cabinets and other finishing touches.

While folks are checking out the bamboo flooring and the low chemical emission post-consumer recycled countertops, they’ll also have the chance to meet and greet with several local vendors that helped make this production possible. Booths will be set up along the street and inside the homes and garages with products from McCabe Lumber, Ferguson, Hagedorn Appliances, McSwain Carpet and Flooring, the Appliance Loft, Greener Stock and others. Even Bounty paper towels will be on hand to show you how you can become more sustainable with every messy spill.

Other than looking out for the best interest in the earth, one of the main reasons designers chose this particular angle was to look out for the best interest of the homeowner. Because the eight homes are located in Columbia-Tusculum, they qualify for the Department of Community Development’s Community Reinvestment Area Residential Tax Abatement Program, which means that those who build or purchase a home in the city limits of Cincinnati will be momentarily exempt from increased real estate property taxes. In the case of the GREENarama homes, they qualify for the LEED Project’s 15-year, $500,000 tax abatement. Not only will purchasers be helping to stimulate community revitalization, but the home’s green architecture will reduce energy costs while the owners pay less property tax.

“Roughly translated, that’s about $9,000 a year in savings,” Riffe says. “It’s unbelievable. It’s like getting an extra $100,000 of house for free. Do the math over 15 years and its $120,000.” He also notes that the tax abatement is transferable if the house were to be sold during those 15 years.

In addition to offering the latest green options for those in the market for a new abode, the event will also present plenty of ideas for giving your appliances or home necessities a green makeover and the latest options for unique carpentry and sustainable, custom designs for every room.

GREENARAMA will take place on Strafer Street in Columbia-Tusculum June 17-19 and June 24-26. To learn more about the show or to purchase tickets, visit

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