Progress comes to those who wait

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in at Wishful Thinking. And between all the rain and various checkpoints with inspectors, progress has been slow but is moving along.

We almost have a full slab! Almost…Ready for Slab 2

The solid concrete foundation walls have been poured with the steel connectors placed, the outsides of the walls were waterproofed and then covered with gravel and then fill dirt. Finally the interior has been covered in gravel and we will be moving towards slab soon.

We’re having trouble seeing all the spaces and how it’s all going to going work, but we’re excited to start seeing walls go up and start to really see it in real life.

 

 

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LEED

LEEDOur new house is going to be LEED Certified, mostly likely at the Gold Level. While it wasn’t something we originally planned, somethings are too irresistible to ignore. The incentive here: tax abatement.

The city of Cincinnati has one of the more progressive/generous tax abatements when it comes to LEED as part of its strategy to encourage more growth and building inside the city limits. Read more here

So, what is LEED? 

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a credentialing and certification process run by the U.S. Green Building Council. You can read more here if you’re curious: http://www.usgbc.org/leed

Essentially LEED is a checklist of various green/environmentally friendly attributes for buildings that prove that your building meets a certain standard. Depending on how many points you achieve on the checklist, you can qualify for various levels of LEED Certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum.

Why doesn’t everyone do LEED then? Well, it costs money…sometimes a lot of money. To become LEED certified, you must hire and work with a LEED consultant who helps facilitate and verify the certification process. Additionally, your plans must meet certain thresholds and requirements in order to get credit in the checklist. If those things weren’t included from the beginning, it could easily add 20% or more to the total construction cost in order to incorporate them.

Luckily, our builders already do many of the LEED required items as part of their standard process so when we decided to go LEED at the last minute, it didn’t require a complete overhaul. And there were several items we achieved simply by building the house that we are where we’re building it:

Near a bus line? Check, we’re directly on several main routes with buses traveling in front of the house many, many times a day. Within short walking distance of public spaces/parks? Yes, again, several. Doesn’t require additional new city services to be installed? Yes, the advantage of building an in-fill house in the middle of an urban neighborhood is that all the power, water, sewer hook-ups are already in place and ready to use. Add to that the thick walls, energy-efficient furnace, and a well-planned natural flow of light and air through the house and we are well on our way to being LEED.

But why are we doing LEED?LEED chart

In case you didn’t click on the Cincinnati city link above, let me show the magic chart here. For New Construction, the city gives 15 years of tax abatement for up to $400,000 worth of home value for a LEED Silver certification…even more for GOLD certification.

Over the 15 years, that tax abatement is worth tens of thousands of dollars. And when we finally did that math, we quickly became “green” on LEED.

The plans…

Since we’re likely to see very little progress coming up because of the 10+ days of predicted rain, let’s look at our plans to the Wishful Thinking house to come.

Simple plans

At risk of exposing ourselves to a many “helpful” comments about what we should or shouldn’t have done with the house plans, I’ll put them up with the following comments:

  • The plans are fixed (see previous entry: “Footers!”)
  • No, there is no basement or attic…on purpose
  • Yes, it would be nice to have a second bathroom on the second floor. It would also be nice if we won the lottery.
  • No, we really don’t want an open kitchen in the main living area. No. Really.

Things I’m really excited about in the plans:

  • First floor master bedroom
  • Closets!
  • An office where I can close the door away from the TV
  • The nook at the top of the stairs that will make the best little reading area
  • Having a separate area for crafts/kid stuff versus the dining table

Footers!

footers.jpeg

When things are moving slowly, sometimes the little things feel like huge progress. And today we have…..FOOTERS!

The sub-contractors were busy from first thing Saturday morning through Sunday, and Monday… all the way through Tuesday afternoon when the concrete truck arrived and footers were poured- just in the nick of time before it started pouring. (rain vs concrete…)

The concrete that was poured previously was to stabilize the ground underneath the house, but this concrete, this is what the house actually attaches to (hence the steel sticking up. From here, we’re moving closer to our goal of Concrete Phase 3 (known as “The Slab”….)

Of course, it’s supposed to rain straight for the next ten days, so we’ll see when work gets started again….

Modern it is…

northside-21

This is Northside, the neighborhood we live in. It’s an eclectic mix of people, but most of the architecture dates from 1890-1910, which means the neighborhood is packed with 100+ year old Victorian buildings.

pullan house.jpgEven our current house (around the corner from the new house) is an 1896 Italianate row house complete with original coal fireplaces and the remnants of the gas lights in each of the rooms.

We love Northside. We love its artsy, quirky diversity and lots of close neighbors. We’ve loved our current house too. We bought the house the same week we got married and since then, we’ve added three kids and spent lots of time simply living here. But….. living in a old house comes with “fun”, i.e. hassles. And with every home improvement project that *should* take 30 minutes that turns into 3 hours plus 3 trips to the hardware store, we’ve had our fill of the fun of living in a 120 year old house.

When we started thinking about the new house, we went in with a particular style in mind: modern. Yep… we live in Cincinnati, a city full of old homes, in Northside which is packed with Victorian architecture… and we’re going to build a brand spanking new modern home. We’re so excited.

 

Progress so far….

IMG_8786 This is what the land looked like prior to construction: a grassy hill flanked by a non-attractive apartment building on the south side (seen straight ahead in the photo), a 1900s-era two family on the north side, and a very busy street. Luckily the lot is much deeper than wide so eventually we have good space away from the noise of Hamilton Avenue.

IMG_3342
Then there was digging…. and clearing, and more digging. More than 5 feet was cut off the hill in the middle of the lot to bring it back down to the final grade of the house. And of course that dirt all had to go somewhere…. Voila! new backyard!

new backyardholes for foundation 2 Once the land was at grade, the digging continued. Large deep holes for foundations were dug, marking the edges of the house footprint. Issue #6,023: the digging ran into old foundation from one of the previous houses. 😦

That meant updates to the city engineer, more digging, and dropping several truck loads of a special concrete into the holes to create a long-term stable base.

Concrete

To the right, recent picture of special concrete in holes. Now onto actual foundations and eventually the slab for the first floor!!

I’m sure at some point this process will go very quickly, but right now, we get excited at any minor creep of progress….

We’re Building A House! *we hope*

Wishful Thinking

The picture above is the house that we hope to live in someday…..someday soon.

In Jan 2014, we purchased two lots of land in our urban neighborhood of Northside (<5 mi from downtown Cincinnati). The land was empty but used to hold two separate houses: one was torn down 10+ years ago, the other burned in a nasty fire 4+ years ago. Since then, we’ve been working with our architects and builders, SMP Design + Construction, to create a plan as well as jump through lots of hoops and over many obstacles so that one day (hopefully soon) we can live in the sweet picture above.

Lou dubbed the house “Wishful Thinking” back when it was still just sketchy blueprints (a moniker that I’m certain has doomed us) but a name’s a name, so Wishful Thinking it is – a house we one day hope to be ours.

North House on Two LotsA neighbor from across the street sent us this pic of our land with the two previous houses still standing. Both are gone as is the staircase pictured here (there is a similar staircase back in the trees to the right that still exists).

Like most Northside lots, the houses are very close together.  For us, one house will stand where there used to be two… Wishful thinking, of course.