Projects › PNC SmartHome
During summer and early fall of 2011, visitors to The Cleveland Museum of Natural History were invited to tour a home that could represent the future of energy-efficient housing.
PNC SmartHome Cleveland was a real house constructed on Museum grounds and presented in conjunction with the exhibition Climate Change, on display July 23 through December 31, 2011 in the Museum's Kahn Hall. Although SmartHome closed to the public in October 2011, the house was moved to a permanent residential lot in University Circle, where it became the home of a Cleveland family.
SmartHome Cleveland demonstrates how humans can act to affect an energy-efficient future and can help change ideas about how we design, build and live in our homes in Northeast Ohio. The home was designed using the Passive House methodology, the world’s most advanced standard of energy performance. PNC SmartHome was built using a wall system based on structural insulated panels.
Designed to function without a furnace, SmartHome Cleveland is 90 percent more energy efficient than a typical home. It features sustainable materials and furnishings, advanced stormwater techniques, healthy housing techniques and biophilic design to connect occupants to nature. (Click here to learn more about the SmartHome Cleveland site.)
Three key elements distinguish "passive house" structures from typical houses:
- high levels of insulation, with walls up to 14 inches thick;
- a carefully sealed building envelope with minimal air leakage combined with efficient heat-recovery ventilation for superior indoor air quality; and
- ultra high-performance windows—at least double-paned and typically triple-paned.
The result is a home with no drafts, no cold spots and extremely low heating bills. View a real-time graph of SmartHome Cleveland's energy consumption. For more ideas on how to live simply and sustainably, visit the Museum's sustainability blog.
The two-story house has a net living space of approximately 2,500 square feet, including three bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms. The house also includes a full basement on its permanent site.
The home was designed by Chuck Miller of Doty & Miller Architects in Cleveland.
David Beach, director of the GreenCityBlueLake Institute managed the project for the Museum.
SmartHome Storm Water ManagementPrecipitation that falls on the SmartHome roof is directed to sustainable collection systems instead of conventionally draining it to the sewer line in the street. Downspouts on the south side of the house are directed to a rain garden, while the north side runoff is collected in a 500-gallon cistern. Pervious pavements are employed at several locations around the house. These systems also demonstrate applications by which individual residential properties can earn credits from Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District for reduction in storm water fees.
Pervious PavementsPervious pavement systems can be constructed of materials such as concrete, asphalt, unit pavers and recycled glass. Constructed to enable runoff to drain directly through the pavement into a stone base reservoir below, pervious systems reduce runoff intensity to lessen burden on area sewer systems; reduce runoff temperature; improve water quality by filtering it through base and soil; and increase recharge of groundwater.
Pervious Concrete PavementAt the front of the house, the two-part ramp system begins with a pervious concrete walk that slopes up to a deck landing and continues as a structured ramp up to the front porch. Pervious concrete material, installed by F. Buddie Contracting, allows for precipitation runoff to percolate through porous voids that are formed between coarse stones in the slab. Water, captured in stone base below the slab, can then seep into the ground to recharge the groundwater and reduce storm water runoff.
The second leg of the ramp will be constructed of Trex recycled plastic decking and will include handrails as part of the porch deck.
Pervious Unit PaversA second type of porous pavement system, used at the SmartHome’s patio areas, is constructed with concrete unit pavers donated by Unilock. Unilock’s Eco Preoira style pavers are constructed with slightly wider joints and, like pervious concrete, allow for runoff to drain thorough joints in the pavement into a stone base reservoir.
Pavements will also consist of lighter-colored materials that reflect solar radiation rather than absorb it and reduce heat island effects in urban areas.
Garden PathA crushed stone garden path circling around the south side of the house connects the back porch and patios on the south and northeast corners of the house. The 6’ wide path, built of crushed limestone, can be recycled for other uses after the exhibit ends. Solar-powered landscape lights will line the path and provide low-level lighting.
CisternA 500-gallon cistern, provided by Rain Brothers of Columbus, OH, is located near the northwest corner of the house and collects storm water runoff from 875 square feet of roof area. Reclaimed water is used in the watering of plants in the landscape, lessens a burden on the sewer system and prevents pollution of waterways. A patio area around the cistern terminates the garden path and serves as an outdoor space in the backyard.
Rain GardenRain gardens are natural landscape features that collect and slow the rapid flow of storm water runoff from hard surfaces such as pavements and buildings. They allow for percolation of runoff to recharge groundwater, lessen stress on conventional storm sewers and can filter contaminates from storm water that may otherwise quickly flow out to natural waterways.
A rain garden will collect runoff from the SmartHome"s roof, patio areas and much of the garden path on the south side of the site. Water and drought-tolerant native plants fill rain garden basins. A swale directs overflow from large storm events to an existing storm drain near Jeptha Drive.
The interpretive plaza, constructed of pervious pavers, provides a place for sitting and enjoying the SmartHome landscape and a place for groups to pause, step off the path and learn about SmartHome features. The plaza is located adjacent to the rain garden and may include interpretive information about the site’s sustainable storm water management systems.
Entry PlazaA plaza at the front of the house features a rain chain and two-tiered structure, serving as a precipitation-fed water feature. Roof runoff flows from the gutter along a rain chain into a two-tiered basin which carries water under the pervious paver plaza to the rain garden. Sights and sounds of water in motion provide seasonal interest as it is directed through a pipe underneath the plaza into the rain garden. Collection basins, constructed of concrete block garden walls and donated by Unilock, are filled with decorative aggregate materials and water-tolerant plants such as species found in bogs or along pond edges.
The lighting manufacturer Holophane is pledging a decorative residential-style light pole with LED fixture which is located at the entry plaza and Wade Oval Drive side walk.
Trees and Garden Plants
Plants selected for the SmartHome are predominantly native to northeast Ohio and the Great Lakes region. They include several species of trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses arranged to play useful roles beyond enhancing the appearance of the house and its site. Klyn Nurseries has provided the majority of plants for the SmartHome Project.
Most plants prefer certain soil types and sun exposure conditions that should be researched before planting. However, native plants are generally more adaptable to local climate and soil conditions and need less maintenance once they become established.
Deciduous oak and river birch trees on the south side of the house are located to provide shade from summer suns once they begin to mature. Large canopies soften the house structure and provide habitat for nesting birds.
Ornamental serviceberries, elderberries and choke cherries grow fruits that attract birds. Blooms and fall colors add seasonal interest. Smaller-sized tree canopies of flowering trees accent architectural features along the front of the house.
At the front of the house, the ramp and stairs elevation transition is softened by two low landscape garden walls along with plant beds filled with native shrubs, perennials and grasses. These plants will also provide seasonal interest with colors and textures of their foliage and flowers throughout the growing season.
The Rain Garden includes plants that can tolerate both wet and drought conditions of the seasons while absorbing runoff from pavements and roofs. Flowers and seeds of several species attract butterflies and birds respectively while providing a naturalized setting to the landscape.
A display of sand barren landscape plants provides an example of the type of vegetation that was indigenous to Wade Oval’s sandy soils before the area was settled and is rarely seen in its natural state today.
Fescue sod, requiring less water and chemicals when established, is proposed for lawns at the front and sides of the house.
Low mow lawn is suggested for disturbed areas which are to be seeded.
A 4-panel, pole-mounted solar array from Dovetail Solar will be located on the south lawn area near Jeptha Drive to collect solar energy. The array will be equipped with a tracking system by a Sunflower Solutions. Both pieces of equipment provide nice stories about technologies being developed in Cleveland. A path should be installed to allow access to the solar array.
These native plants are part of the landscape around PNC SmartHome Cleveland:
- Amelanchier laevis/Allegheny Serviceberry
- Betula nigra 'Heritage'/Heritage River Birch
- Magnolia virginiana/Sweetbay Magnolia
- Prunus virginiana 'Canada Red'/Canada Red Chokecherry
- Quercus shumardii/Shumard Oak
- Ceanothus americanus/New Jersey Tea
- Clethera alnifolia/Summersweet
- Comptonia peregrina/Sweet Fern
- Cornus racemosa
- Diervilla lonicera/Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle
- Hydrangea arborescence radiata/Silverleaf
- HydrangeaItea virginica/Virginia Sweets
- pireIlex verticillata 'Jim Dandy'/Jim Dandy Winterberry
- Ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite'/Shaver Winterberry
- Potentilla fruticosa 'Pink Beauty'/Pink Beauty Potentilla
- Rhododendron maximum 'Roseum'/Pink Max Rhododendron
- Rhus aromatica 'Low Grow'/Low Grow Fragrant Sumac
- Rhis copallinum 'Creels Quintet'/Shining Sumac
- Sambucus canadensis 'Laciniata'/Cutleaf American Elderberry
- Symphoricarpos alba/Common Snowberry
- Vaccinium corymbosum/Highbush Blueberry
Perennials, Grasses, & Groundcovers
- Acorus calamus/Sweet Flag
- Amsonia tabernaemontana/Blue Star
- Aruncus dioecus/Goatsbeard
- Asclepias tuberosa/Butterfly Weed
- Baptisia australis/False Indigo
- Carex muskingumensis/Palm Sedge
- Carex plantaginea/Wideleaf Sedge
- Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'/Moonbeam Coreopsis
- Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'/Purple Coneflower
- Eupatorium maculatum 'Gateway'/Gateway Joe Pye Weed
- Gratiola officinalis/Hyssop
- Lobelia siphilitica/Great Blue Lobelia
- Opuntia humifusa/Prickly Pear Cactus
- Origanum laevigatum 'Herrenhausen'/Ornamental Oregano
- Osmunda cinnamomea/Cinnamon Fern
- Schyzachyrium scoparium 'The Blues'/The Blues Little Bluestem
- Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks'/Firework Goldenrod
- Stoksia laevis 'Color Wheel'/Color Wheel Stokes Aster
- Symphyotrichum cordifolius/Blue Wood Aster
New Building Science & Technology
- Passive House Standard
- Panelized Wood Frame Construction
- SIP Panels
- Air Barrier Details
- Thermal Bridging Reduction
- High Performance Windows
- High Performance ERV and Mini-Split Heat Pumps
- ICF Foundation Walls
PNC SmartHome impacts
- Community – New conversations about green building, energy efficiency and affordable housing (including inspiration of passive design for new Near West Theatre facility in Cleveland's Gordon Square Arts District)
- Neighborhood – Investment in University Circle
- CMNH – Image as center of innovation and sustainability
- Nearly 10,000 people on guided tours plus tens of thousands saw house from outside
- Media coverage valued at $1.14 million
SmartHome Cleveland was funded by PNC Bank, The Cleveland Foundation, The George B. Storer Foundation, an anonymous donor and a number of other sponsors.
"SmartHome Cleveland gave thousands of people hands-on experience with the most advanced, practical and attractive techniques of green building and energy conservation."
- David Beach, director of GreenCityBlueLake Institute
Related blog posts
Help us create the future! >
Your donation helps GCBL bring fresh ideas to Northeast Ohio
Our water vision >
What does it mean to be sustainable with water in Northeast Ohio?
Where's the best urban stroll? >
From Shaker to Hudson, here's our list of favorite places to stroll