When we were searching for the perfect house for our Fall Home Tour, we discovered it right in our own backyard. The Cincinnati home of Terry and Kate Rath is more than a beautiful example of traditional architecture. It’s also one of the greenest and most energy-efficient houses in entire country.
TITLE: The Best of Both Worlds
Terry Rath: “We wanted a house that looked like a normal house. When people think of super energy-efficient houses they think of corrugated metals, square houses with grass on the roofs, and we wanted something more livable for our family.”
Kate Rath: “I’m Kate Rath and this is my husband Terry Rath and we’d like to welcome you to our LEED Platinum Cincinnati, Ohio home.”
Terry Rath: “LEED is “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” and it’s a process for grading a house on sustainability and energy efficiency.” “The house was designed by Randy Travis from RLT Design.” “The process started with picking the style of the house and East Coast Shingle is what we ended up choosing.” “It’s a red cedar exterior house.” “Then we had to incorporate the style of the house into the LEED style.” “The things that go into this house that make it LEED Platinum are PV solar power generation, all rainwater that hits the pool deck, driveway, and roof is collected and used for irrigation, and then the materials you use as far as recyclables, how much waste you have during the building process.” “The whole idea of the house is we wanted to have indoor/outdoor living.” “When we designed the house the architect and I said when you walk up to the front door we want to be able to see through the house into the indoor/outdoor living area.”
Kate Rath: “The open floorplan makes watching the kids really easy and the same is true with entertaining: my guests are in the same room that I’m cooking in.” “So I’m not spending all my time locked away in the kitchen. I’m able to actually entertain and work at the same time.” “The iPhone integration into the technology on the house is really amazing. We can turn on our sound system, our security system, open and close doors – just through our iPhone.”
Terry Rath: “It’s nice also because you can turn everything off with the touch of a button, so when you go to bed: touch it, go to bed.”
Kate Rath: “The benefits of a new home are amazing. Having a family and having everything new and clean and accessible… it’s great.”
Terry Rath: “And maintenance-free.”
Kate Rath: “Well…”
Terry Rath: “Mostly.”
TITLE: Frontgate, Outfitting America’s Finest Homes
A State-of-the-Art Lifestyle
LEED, a standardized system for measuring green buildings, stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. In practical terms, the Rath home’s platinum certification translates into a lifestyle so maintenance-free that it feels futuristic. The house’s entire energy and security systems, for example, are controlled via the Raths’ iPhones. With a touch, glass pocket doors to the porches glide open, screens lower or raise, temperatures are adjusted, televisions turn on, sound systems are engaged or any one of twelve security cameras are monitored. The home has also earned the rare net-zero certification – an achievement that essentially means that the house produces more energy than it uses, netting the owners an annual refund check from their local power company. It also means, thanks to Cincinnati’s forward-thinking energy policies, that the Raths pay no property taxes for fifteen years.
Indoor and Outdoor Spaces Merge
The Raths relish all the features of their home, but believe that the house’s piece de resistance is the beautiful way indoor and outdoor spaces merge, blending seamlessly into one uninterrupted experience. “For entertaining, the first floor living space is fabulous,” Kate says. “It’s open, it’s flowing. It’s everything we wanted in a home.”
“There are a lot of options when it comes to entertaining in this house … guests can mingle from the pool deck to the porches and back into the interior spaces without any sense of separation.”
Melding indoor and outdoor living spaces in this way was actually Terry’s idea. “Our HVAC system is so efficient that we can keep the house cool and comfortable for our guests … even when the pocket doors to the exterior are open,” he says. “There are a lot of options when it comes to entertaining in this house … guests can mingle from the pool deck to the porches and back into the interior spaces without any sense of separation.” Terry describes a party in action: “Anytime we are having people over, there are a lot of moving parts in this house … whether it is closing a screen, adjusting the temperature or changing the music. The best part is that we have the ability to do all this from our iPhones, which means guests don’t even know that it is happening.”
The journey from an older home that was actually heated with radiators to their 7,100 square-foot dream home was not a simple one. When the Raths’ first child was born, they were living in Cincinnati’s picturesque Hyde Park neighborhood – replete with sweeping boulevards and handsome homes that were mostly built in the 1920s. Feeling the need for more space, the couple began visiting home shows, where they became enthused by state-of-the-art features. While they loved their traditional neighborhood, the couple quickly realized their dream home would need to be a new one. One of the keys became discovering an architect with whom they felt great rapport: Randy Travis. Once the couple had partnered with Mr. Travis, a relationship began that would merge Terry Rath’s natural interest in the environment with the architect’s passion for the LEED energy-efficient lifestyle. It was the start of a friendship and a journey that would ultimately take five years of imaginative planning, impeccable attention to detail, adventurous twists … and even a little kismet.
Location, Location, Location
The couple were attached to their charming and walkable neighborhood. But, as with many long-established communities, there were very few building lots – especially not the sort that would fit the unique house they were planning. Giving up, they began to look in other locations. And then the impossible happened. Against all odds, they discovered a tangled, overgrown 2.5-acre lot (ignored for generations because of confusing easements) right in the heart of their beloved Hyde Park.
Now, the work could begin in earnest. With the help of Mr. Travis, they chose East Coast shingle-style architecture for their new home – which fit the classic neighborhood perfectly. Then they begin loading it with innovation after innovation.
The result is a home that embodies the best of both worlds: a real family home that produces more energy than it uses. A home that beautifully balances a classic sense of tradition with amazing innovations.