Rising from the ashes of a demolished 11-acre housing project in Columbus, Ohio's north side is Greenview Estates, and the use of “green” in the development’s name is no coincidence. The community is Columbus' first energy-efficient, affordable housing neighborhood.

“It was almost a brownfield site that was sitting in the middle of the community,” says project coordinator Meera Parthasarathy. Now the site is an example to the community of how going green can be affordable, and it was recently named the “Inspiring Efficiency Impact Award” by the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, a regional group of organizations that promotes energy efficiency

Greenview Estates, which is part of Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman’s “Get Green, Columbus” initiative, was designed not only to demonstrate that high-performance housing can be built affordably, but also to:

  • Increase energy efficiency
  • Reduce construction costs or waste
  • Improve indoor air quality
  • Improve building durability
  • Improve occupant comfort
  • Reduce the environmental impact of the building.

Twenty of the development's 30 planned single-family homes—which offer 1,200 to 1,800 square feet of living area and three to four bedrooms--have been completed, and all of them sold within a six-month period.
“Greenview’s construction and sales are proof that you can build green and sell green," says Coleman. "Families are demanding green products and homes, and we hope this sends a signal to other builders to use more green construction practices.

“We are building neighborhoods in innovative ways no one thought possible a few years ago, and we’re teaching the private sector that sustainable, energy-efficient homes in urban areas can sell,” Coleman adds.

Greenview is a unique partnership between the city of Columbus, MiraCit (which stands for “Miracle City”) Development Corp., the Building Industry Association, Enterprise Community Partners, the State of Ohio Office of Energy Efficiency, the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, and the Affordable Housing Trust for Columbus and Franklin County.

The consortium established criteria for the homes in the neighborhood and then set out to find a company willing to build the majority of the homes. The group didn’t have to look farther than its own backyard to find Columbus-based Sovereign Homes.

Sovereign Homes senior vice president Brian Lieburn says the builder “embraced it" because of the project requirements of energy efficiency, indoor  air quality, resource efficiency, and water conservation.

All the homes are at minimum Energy Star rated and Home Energy Ratings System (HERS) compliant, and they are eligible for a $2,000 federal tax credit for energy efficiency, which Sovereign Homes plans to pass on to residents by paying their utility bills for a year. Additionally, because the development is in a designated "Neighborhood Investment District," homeowners will receive a 15-year property tax abatement estimated to save them an additional $51,000 over the life of the abatement.

All the homes are  equipped with 1-inch XPS insulated sheathing; housewrap or a weather-resistive barrier; a 94% energy-efficient furnace with an electronically commutated motor (ECM); a passive radon reduction system; compact florescent light fixtures; water-conserving appliances and fixtures (including low-flow toilets, showerheads, and faucets); Energy Star-rated, argon-gas-filled windows; and Energy Star-rated appliances (refrigerators, dishwashers, humidifiers, bathroom fans, and washing machines). The builder estimates Greenview Estates homeowners will save an estimated $900 a year on utility bills.

One of the homes' unique features is their garage ventilation system, one of the requirements for the homes. The builder wanted to incorporate motion sensing into the ventilation units, but, according to Lieburn, there isn’t a product like that on the market. So the builder crafted one of its own using Energy Star-rated bathroom fans with a motion switch and a timer.

The homes in Greenview Estates were priced from $130,000 to $180,000, a range kept affordable in part because the developer bought the city-owned land at minimal cost.

But making the homes affordable didn't mean Sovereign Homes was going to cut any corners. "We think that there is a lot of greenwashing going on right now, and what we are proud of is that we have selected some good green features that have good green value to our customers that don't throw affordability out of the equation," Lieburn said.

What's So Green About…

Greenview Estates, Columbus, Ohio

  • Compact fluorescent lights
  • Fresh-air ventilation system
  • 94% energy-efficient furnace with an electronically commutated motor 
  • Passive radon system
  • Housewrap
  • Energy Star-rated bath fans
  • Garage ventilation system
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • Recycled fiberglass insulation
  • Low-flow showerheads and faucets
  • High-performance toilets
  • Energy Star-rated appliances and windows
  • Blower door tested