Green Umbrella in the News

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  • July 19, 2021 2:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: CityBeat
    By Katie Griffith

    All it needs is $2 million — and you can help by drinking local beer.

    The Cincinnati Riding or Walking Network (CROWN) surpassed a major milestone in June when it secured $6 million of an $8 million goal to complete segments of a 34-mile mixed-use walking/biking path.

    Led by Tri-State Trails (an initiative of regional sustainability alliance Green Umbrella), Wasson Way, Ohio River Way and a public-private partnership, CROWN aims to connect over 100 miles of pre-existing and to-be-constructed trail systems while boosting economic development, improving transportation options, stimulating businesses and promoting healthy activities. 

    CROWN launched in August 2020 and has broken a lot of ground since. As it stands, 17 of the 34 miles are complete, five additional miles are completely funded and 12 miles await funding, says Tri-State Trails Director Wade Johnston. A number of public and private partnerships have come together to support CROWN, most notably United Dairy Farmers and Kroger Health (each contributing $1 million) and a capital campaign cabinet co-chaired by Wym and Jan Portman. 

    “We’ve been interested for decades in connecting people to the outdoors,” says Jan Portman. “Not only for physical, but mental health. We have dreamed about this kind of urban loop in this city. It’s such a great idea; it connects with so many priorities for so many groups of people, like transportation. But I think most importantly, the CROWN is going to connect people to places that they care about and places that can improve their lives, like universities and grocery stores and parks and the arts and healthcare centers.” 

    Currently mid-construction with various segments complete and open for recreation, Cincinnati’s first urban trail loop will enclose and connect more than 50 communities — that’s more than 356,000 people, according to CROWN’s website. 

    It’s also notable that CROWN will serve as a “hub,” Johnston says, to access the Little Miami Scenic Trail, Ohio River Trail, Mill Creek Greenway, Wasson Way and Murray Path. It also will include downtown’s Smale Riverfront Park, which was named one of USA Today’s top 10 river walks in 2021, and Riverfront Commons in Northern Kentucky.

    “The CROWN loop will take advantage of some of the great things in Cincinnati that are unique to the Midwest,” says Wym Portman. “We have a beautiful river, we are connecting to one of the best park systems in America, and we have arts and culture connections to the art museum and Cincinnati Ballet and more.”

    As more segments begin to open for recreation, the benefits are revealing themselves. Jan and Wym Portman attribute the opening of a walk-up window at Busken Bakery along Wasson Way to the development of the trail, as well as a recently announced apartment project by PLK Communities LLC. 

    “We call that ‘bikenomics,’ where we are seeing the economics of how much people care about trails and want to be close to them and are willing to support businesses along the way,” Jan Portman says.

    At about $1.5 million per mile (excluding bridges or retaining walls) Tri-State Trails’ Johnston says CROWN is a $50 million project that will leverage $42 million in federal funding in addition to the $8 million target in private donations. 

    CROWN now needs to secure the remaining $2 million of that $8 million and has launched promotional programs such as July’s Ales for Trails to help.

    In July, a visit to MadTree Brewing Company, Fifty West Brewing Company, Streetside Brewing, Listermann Brewing Trail House, Big Ash Brewing, Dead Low Brewing or North High Brewing Company can benefit CROWN. Each brewery — all located along existing and planned parts of the path — paid CROWN a fee to participate. Ales for Trails offers a Trail Hop Card (like a passport) that can be obtained at one of the breweries or downloaded on CROWN’s website. Buy a beer, get a stamp. Get stamps from all seven breweries by July 31 to get a free Ales for Trails T-shirt and a chance to win a grand prize raffle.

    Johnston sees Ales for Trails as a part of CROWN’s goal coming to life, as it benefits both patrons and trail-adjacent businesses. He also notes countless coffee shops, ice cream parlors, restaurants and retail spots that exist on the path as possible participants in similar programs in the future. 

    “This is what I envision will be the first of many types of programs like this that celebrate what is connected by the trail,” he says. “One of the things I’ve thought about is how along the Ohio River Trail there’s like five different local barbecue joints like Montgomery Inn Boathouse or Eli’s BBQ.”  

    He says it’s especially important that anyone can participate in these initiatives by walking or biking instead of driving, which positively impacts the environment as well as individual health.

    “One of the coolest things about the trail network in my opinion is just seeing our city from a different perspective that you cannot see from your car,” Johnston says. 

    Part of the trail that’s currently walkable is the portion of Wasson Way from Marburg Avenue in Hyde Park to Montgomery Road at the edge of Xavier University’s campus. ArtWorks’ 300-foot mural “Electric Avenue” dances along a portion of the path on the Duke Energy complex beside Montgomery Road. It colorfully celebrates sustainability, energy, movement and nature and was unveiled in summer 2020. 

    While parts of the trail will highlight recreation, others — like the connection to the Uptown Innovation Corridor when Wasson Way is fully complete — highlight one of CROWN’s most pivotal benefits: equitable transportation options. 

    “The connection to Uptown is going to touch Avondale, Evanston, Walnut Hills, and it’s going to link the trail into the Uptown Innovation Corridor, and that to me is a game changer,” Johnston says. “Because all of a sudden, the trail will connect to our region’s second largest employment hub, and you have all these densely populated residential areas along Wasson Way that are now going to be connected to the hospitals and the university and all the job opportunities in that area.”

    Specifically, according to Wasson Way’s website, 83,000 residents can benefit from this specific segment of CROWN plus gain walkable access to the 70 shops and restaurants in Rookwood. As of press time, three of the six phases of Wasson Way are finished, with phases four and five (1.25 miles, beginning at Marburg Avenue and ending at Old Red Bank Road) scheduled to be completed by winter and phase six (0.8 miles, beginning at Woodburn Avenue and ending at Blair Court) by 2024. 

    The goal is to have the trail completed by 2025. 

    “There are all kinds of destinations along the trail that are a part of our park system and all these different business districts that will be close by to the trail network,” says Johnston. “It’s such a cool way to celebrate the history and culture of our city.”

    To learn more about CROWN’s progress or to donate, visit crowncincinnati.org.


  • July 12, 2021 1:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Business Courier
    By Chris Wetterich

    In 2018, the city and major business leaders unveiled a public-private effort to reduce the environmental impact and energy consumption of buildings centered in downtown and Uptown, known as a 2030 District, with the goal being to reduce their carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.

    Currently, officials are ahead of schedule, reducing emissions by 21% in participating buildings so far, a $2.5 million savings.

    “We needed to be at 20% in 2020,” said Elizabeth Rojas, executive director of the Cincinnati 2030 District, which falls under Green Umbrella, a local environmental group and sustainability alliance. The district serves as a resource and connector as building owners and companies strive to meet goals. “We were encouraged by that.”

    Cincinnati has the sixth-largest of such districts in the United States, encompassing more than 300 buildings and 27 million square feet of space. There are 23 2030 Districts across North America, including regional peers like Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

    In addition to reducing energy use, organizers are also trying to reduce water and transportation emissions associated with the people who live or work in a building. The Cincinnati 2030 District is compiling water usage statistics now and is surveying members on transportation, with an eye toward figuring out how to incentivize the use of public transportation, van pooling, electric vehicles and bicycles. Transportation is the region’s second-largest source of emissions.

    Within the city, buildings account for 60% of carbon dioxide emissions, the emission scientists say is responsible for global climate change.

    The Cincinnati district’s goals are aggregated; in other words, individual building data generally is not shared but everyone works together to meet the goal. Some buildings might be able to greatly exceed the goals because of their design or other features, while others will fall short.

    “You work toward net zero in an existing office building, but we do see that there’s a point where you take a building to a point of its maximum efficiency,” Rojas said.

    Key strategies used to reduce emissions include retrofitting buildings with LED lighting, onsite solar panels and building automated systems.

    One building where some data is available is the Cincinnati Art Museum in Mount Adams. The museum used Ohio Energy Program grants and has a five-year plan to find savings in their heat, ventilation and air conditioning systems and a major lighting project, saving 51% of its annual $583,488 costs annually on a $1.7 million project budget. The expenses would be paid back in about five years.

    Other members include 84.51, Kroger, Procter & Gamble, Fifth Third, Cincinnati Bell and City Club Apartments.

  • July 02, 2021 1:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Magazine
    By Cedric Rose

    Bike advocates see decades of work finally bear fruit with Wasson Way, the Beechmont Connector, a breakthrough on the riverfront Oasis Line, and development of the CROWN.

    I’m standing over my bike, breathing hard, just a few hundred feet from where the Beechmont Levee crosses the Little Miami River. I’ve ridden here with Wade Johnston, director of Tri-State Trails. With his soccer player’s build, he set a pace around the Lunken Airport bike path to this spot that my desk-set physique struggled to match.

    We’re here to see construction on a new bike and pedestrian bridge, dubbed the Beechmont Connector, which broke ground in early March and is slated for completion by fall 2022. It will connect the 78-mile Little Miami Scenic Trail with a growing network of urban bike trails around Cincinnati.

    It’s been an exciting year of progress on bike trails across the region, which is serendipitous given the surge in interest in bicycling and walking generated by the pandemic.

    The city’s first ever two-way protected bike lane was installed in March along Clifton Avenue near the University of Cincinnati. The temporary pilot lane is expected to become permanent. The Ohio River Trail was extended both up and down river, with a half-mile section opening in Price Hill in August 2020 and a two-mile extension from Lunken Airport out to the California neighborhood this spring. To the north, crucial segments of trail in Hamilton and Metroparks that will link the Great Miami Bikeway with the Little Miami Scenic Trail were also announced. And progress on the much-lauded Wasson Way project continues full steam ahead.

    But the biggest local bike trail news this spring was Mayor John Cranley’s March 30 announcement that the city has come to an agreement with the owners of the “Oasis Line” railway along the Ohio River, allowing the city to use American Rescue Plan Act funds to build a dedicated bike/hike path from downtown to Lunken Airport.

    This leg of bike trail along the river has been in urban planners’ sights for over a decade. The Beechmont Connector, Wasson Way, and the new rail trail along the river are all part of a grand vision for a truly connected system of trails around Cincinnati, dubbed the CROWN—Cincinnati Riding or Walking Network. The CROWN loop will touch 54 communities, running from Northside to Madisonville, down to Lunken, then west along the Ohio River to downtown and on to Lower Price Hill. The loop would then be closed by the forthcoming north-south Mill Creek Greenway trail.

    This environmentally friendly dynamo will attract billions in development dollars and make our city healthier, safer, more fun, and more attractive as a destination or a place to live. And there are more hopes hidden in the CROWN. Some see it as a way to reconnect neighborhoods and residents who have been cut off by a century of car-centric urban planning and design.

    Both Wade Johnston and I live in Mt. Washington, just across the river from where we’re watching a bulldozer push dirt down a former access road. As cyclists, we’ve used the access road as a somewhat perilous shortcut. If you bombed down Beechmont Avenue past ramps to and from State Route 32 and across the narrow levee road bridge, then played Frogger across four lanes of traffic, this access road got you to peaceful, green miles of bike trail.

    I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 30, so bikes have always been part of my life. That includes bike commuting when possible for the better part of several decades. I’ve watched the slow growth of Cincinnati’s cycling infrastructure and benefited from using it. But progress can seem fragmented. Johnston and I talk about the relative merits of on-road vs. off-road riding, “protected” bike trails like the CROWN, and Cincinnati’s recent progress on bike infrastructure.

    In many cases, on-road bike infrastructure has been laid down where road rehabs are happening, he says, because that’s the cheapest time to do it. “And you can get a little piece, but maybe it doesn’t connect. So people are confused, Why doesn’t it connect? What the CROWN is doing is building the network.” Johnston nods to where the new Beechmont Connector trail bridge will be built beside the levee. “And connections like this in particular are going to be a huge catalyst.”

    So what? you ask. Trails are great for a Saturday walk or ride where you’re occasionally passed by a peloton of Lycra-clad dudes racing to the next trail-side brewery. What’s the big deal?

    First of all, even if you never set foot or tire on the CROWN, urban bike infrastructure makes everyone safer on roads. A 2019 study published in Journal of Transport & Health analyzed traffic crash data over a 13-year period in cities that added “protected” bike lanes to streets. It found that these separate lanes resulted in 44 percent fewer deaths and 50 percent fewer serious injuries. The reason? In the parlance of planners, protected bike paths “calmed” traffic. Cars travelled slightly more slowly, and more cyclists and walkers meant more bikes everywhere, plus drivers who themselves enjoyed those activities, which encourages alertness.

    Bike infrastructure also drives development and economic growth and raises real estate values. Johnston cites the Indianapolis Cultural Trail as an example. A 2015 economic impact report found that property values within one block of the 8.1-mile multi-use trail increased just over $1 billion. The CROWN will be more than four times longer.

    Leaning against his black Surly Cross-Check with a rear rack kiddie-seat adaptor, Johnston outlines the complicated ballet of getting bike infrastructure built in this region. Bicycle infrastructure groups and advocates have shown up at thousands of meetings to push for bike lanes over parking lanes. Great Parks of Hamilton County, Anderson Township, and the city of Cincinnati have all been big leaders, Johnston says, in pushing for trail infrastructure and pedestrian connectivity. “But having an independent third party like Tri-State Trails and Green Umbrella coordinating behind the scenes for these collaborations is the encouragement that communities need to connect,” he says.

    Johnston is one of only two full-time employees at Tri-State Trails, the brainchild of local sustainability nonprofit Green Umbrella. With financial support from the Haile Foundation and the Good Devou Foundation, it works to connect the dots of a regional trail network. A nine-county Regional Trails Plan was completed in 2014, and from that the CROWN emerged.

    Tri-State Trails helps communities navigate the complexities of funding, including grants through OKI (Ohio- Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments) and ODNR (Ohio Department of Natural Resources). For example, when the city of Cincinnati couldn’t afford the local match on a transportation grant for an extension of the Ohio River Trail in 2017, city planners almost returned the money. Tri-State Trails sought a to­tal of $500,000 from Anderson Township, Hamilton County, and Interact for Health, Johnston says, which allowed the city to find the remaining funds to extend the path. It’s a public-private partnership, he says, for which he’s able to act as quarterback.

    Safety, economic value, and good clean fun; what’s not to love? When I Zoom-chat with Jan and Wym Portman, the CROWN’s most prominent supporters and fund-raisers, they bring home what makes this project even more vital to the here and now.

    Since 2006 Wym has served on the board of the Ohio River Way, one of the CROWN’s partner organizations. It’s long pushed for a trail linking Lunken Airport and downtown, but, he says, “As a nonprofit, it’s difficult to get the railroad’s at­tention.” He credits Cranley’s leadership with closing the deal to acquire the riverfront right of way.

    The Portmans enjoy walking, running, and cycling and are passionate about the outdoors and conservation causes. One of the first boards Wym served on locally was Camp Joy, where he saw that many city kids lacked outdoor experience and confidence. That’s still in the back of his mind, he says, when he speaks with people from neighborhoods like Avondale about the CROWN. He hears from parents, he says, “about the importance of this trail for their kids, to be able to get on a bike and ride from Avondale to Hyde Park or Avondale to downtown.”

    Jan’s training as a geologist and a geography teacher influences her thinking about a project woven from the landscape. “When we mobilize ourselves in the world, cycle, or connect with terra firma rather than drive a car, our experience is very different,” she says. “One of my favorite things is walking on the trail with people who have not been there, maybe walking from Hyde Park through a park to Red Bank Road. And there’s just an amazing sense of discovery that those two places are close by. They’re surprised and delighted to make that connection between places and to each other.”

    Side-by-side neighborhoods often contrast sharply—and quite literally—with “the other side of the tracks,” so it feels elegant to turn railroad tracks back into a means of human connection. “We have the geography, a great river, and the best park system of any U.S. city our size,” says Wym. “The CROWN takes advantage of all that. And we need this more than ever in our civilization today, too, because of all the divisions in our society.”

    To get a sense of when you might expect to ride the CROWN’s entire 34-mile loop, I speak with John Brazina, director of Cincinnati’s department of transportation and engineering. He used to commute on his Trek road bike from Blue Ash to City Hall and back, so he gets how bike infrastructure can transform the urban cycling experience. “Where there’s a sharrow or a bike lane or just a simple pavement marking to delin­eate between a driving lane and a bicycle-use lane,” he says, “it helps both me as a rider and me as a driver know where I’m supposed to be.”

    Brazina can’t say exactly when the CROWN will be complete, but he points to the rate of progress on Wasson Way as a good indicator that we won’t have to wait long. Wasson Way currently runs from Evanston to Oakley, and ongoing work will take it to Ault Park later this year, with final phases funded through OKI. “So we’re talking maybe three years,” he says, “and you have a complete trail that gets you from the University of Cincinnati all the way to Ault Park.”

    So three years could be the time frame for nearing completion of the CROWN’s northern and eastern sides. Cranley’s agreement on the rail trail linking Lunken to downtown allows two years for parties to work out the legalities, gain regulatory approval, and raise funds, but also underscores the intent to move quickly. That said, City Hall leadership will change this fall, so getting the work done soon will depend on whether the next mayor prioritizes this project. But if he does, we could see completion of the riverside corridor in just a few years. That leaves the north-south Mill Creek Greenway to complete the CROWN.

    While the Greenway is still in planning stages, you can already ride from downtown to Northside on a mixture of on-road bike lanes and small sections of protected bike path.

    sit in on an online meeting, organized by Johnston, to gather local cyclists’ input for a new “low stress” Cincinnati bike map modeled on a similar project in Denver. So often, biking really is lower stress than driving—until it isn’t.

    Johnston opens the meeting by explaining that the map is meant to get more people out on bikes because “if you equip a human with a bicycle, they are the most efficient mode of travel on the planet by energy consumed. So if we want to convince people not to drive a car for every trip, we think a bike is a great way to do it.”

    Johnston listens to local riders on the Zoom call and displays their favorite routes in real time with Geographic Information System mapping software. The meeting is a show-and-tell of shortcuts, tree-shaded scenic routes, and potential trouble areas to warn new cyclists about. It shows how bicycles fit into the larger fabric of transportation options, where infrastructure is—but mostly isn’t—used. The Central Parkway bike lane, a key route for heading out of Over-the-Rhine, is much appreciated by local cyclists, but when busy it can be dangerous as cars pull into and out of Findlay Market from behind a row of parked vehicles. There’s also discussion of areas of downtown near highway on- and off-ramps where cyclists can get caught off-guard by motorists still moving at highway speeds.

    That last point is raised by Joe Humpert, president of Queen City Bike, a nonprofit dedicated to making Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky “a great bicycling region.” He organizes group rides that explore the area by bike and stop to socialize, brew up coffee outdoors, and take in the landscape as part of his local #coffeeoutside movement.

    Bike infrastructure is all about providing options “for people who either can’t afford a car or choose to not operate an automobile,” says Humpert when I reach him later by telephone. While on-road infrastructure can occasionally act as a lightning rod in the sometimes fraught relationship between drivers and cyclists, he says, it’s an important part of a larger functional network.

    He sees access to good infrastructure two ways. First, can everyone get from their personal point A to point B easily and safely? “We want people of all economic statuses and colors and abilities to be able to get from wherever they are to wherever they need to go,” he says. That’s why Queen City Bike, Tri-State Trails, RedBike, and Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance all maintain ties with the Metro and TANK bus systems, he says, “because multimodal transportation is so important to folks.” Multimodal, in this case, includes using a bike for a piece of their trip—tossing a bike on the front of a bus to get up a hill, for example.

    Humpert’s second goal is the idea of comfort, by which he means safety. “You have this perception, sometimes quite real, that you’re putting your life at risk when riding a bike in the city,” he says. “Some folks can be drawn into the sport and can come to a better understanding of cyclists as a group if they’re given the opportunity to participate on things like the Little Miami Trail and Wasson Way, where you almost never encounter an automobile or, if you do, it’s in a very controlled setting. That enables everyone to utilize their bikes for recreation and exercise.”

    Beyond planning meetings and mapping software, local bike organizations are also trying to spread the gospel of multimodal transportation on a person-to-person level. They want to make the network work for everyone in the region, especially those who’ve gotten so used to being left out that when they see a new trailhead or RedBike station they automatically think Not for me.

    The nonprofit bike share Cincy RedBike is working to change that perception. It recently won a $200,000 Living Lab Grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership to build inclusivity into its fleet of 442 bikes and 100 e-bikes parked at 57 stations throughout the urban basin, suburbs, and Northern Kentucky.

    RedBike’s education and outreach manager, Elese Daniel, plays bike polo, writes poetry, and even owns a bike with a typewriter attached to it, the “Story Bike.” She also manages RedBike’s “Go” program, which offers $5 monthly passes to households at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

    Her role at RedBike is to encourage more lower income individuals and people of color to feel inclined to use the service. Some of that’s just getting out in communities and talking to people or holding pop-up events where they can try bikes and e-bikes to “remind people that bikes are fun, that they’re potentially a tool, that they can be a fun date night,” Daniel says. The national grant supports RedBike’s reach into new neighborhoods with “single-serve” bike docks.

    “We have our different roles to play in advocacy and in supporting more bicycling for all the benefits that it can offer people,” she says. “But the question is who’s going to use this infrastructure and how will people feel about it. So it feels really important to make sure people are given opportunities to try biking on different trails and deciding where bike infrastructure goes themselves.”

    Bellevue resident Caitlin Sparks calls herself a “vehicular cyclist” and encourages other cyclists to ride in the road and take the entire lane to increase visibility both for themselves and for cyclists as a group. Which, she admits, can be a big ask. Sparks is on the board of the Northside-based MoBo Bicycle Co-op and volunteers in their “open shop,” where participants learn how to repair their own bikes or even build one. MoBo recently partnered with RedBike to create a shared Youth Programs Coordinator position.

    Sparks also puts in shop time at Newport-based Reser Outfitters, where she often gets to ask people where they’re going to ride their brand new bike. A lot of people—armed with stimulus checks and going stir crazy under lockdown—bought new bikes during the pandemic, and many tell her, I’m going to stick with the trails for now. “And that’s an entryway, the first step,” she says. “Because once they get out there and the wind blows in their face and they’re having an awesome time, they’ll want to keep doing it. And they’ll go a little further each time.”

    Do you remember when you got your first bike? If that never happened for you, it still can. For me, because I’m a new parent and grew up being ridden around on my dad’s bike, making our city bike-friendly is really about making our city a fun place to be a kid. Or to be a kid again.

    There’s that other cycle the CROWN is hoping to support: our life cycle. As Wym and Jan Portman say, a biking and hiking trail is for every kid to ride and explore and for old friends to walk. Above all, it’s a shared path where you get to know your neighbors and where communities can connect.

  • June 25, 2021 1:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Energy News Network
    By Kathiann M. Kowalski

    Steps to improve commercial building ventilation often use more energy, but experts say energy efficiency work can offset added savings.

    As business as usual resumes in the wake of COVID-19, energy conservation experts are urging commercial building owners to pair efficiency upgrades with healthy building projects. When done well, those improvements can reduce extra energy costs and in some cases even cancel them out.

    COVID-19 is an airborne disease, and healthcare experts remain concerned about transmission. Ohio lifted mandatory mask requirements for most places on June 2. Yet only 45% in the state had started COVID-19 vaccinations as of May 31. That means risks for catching and spreading the virus continue, especially among unvaccinated people.

    Enactment of Ohio House Bill 606 and some other states’ laws shield employers from liability for various claims relating to transmission of COVID-19. However, efforts to incorporate a shield provision into a federal relief bill failed last year

    On June 10, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration updated its guidance for employers on reducing and preventing the spread of COVID-19 among at-risk persons and unvaccinated people. That guidance is separate from OSHA’s June 21 rule for healthcare workers

    “The pandemic has raised questions about airborne pathogens” and other health concerns, said Cynthia Cicigoi, executive director at Cleveland 2030 District. “I think there will be a greater emphasis placed on health and safety in commercial spaces — and balancing that with energy efficiency.”

    2030 Districts are a network of urban groups that help commercial building owners focus on energy efficiency, water use, transportation emissions and other aspects of sustainability. Building members report on energy use, water use and other criteria. 2030 districts also connect them with service company members, if desired.

    Consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this spring, OSHA advises employers to use multiple protective measures, including maintaining or improving ventilation in buildings to increase the delivery of clean air. 

    Both agencies refer to ventilation and filtration standards from ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. Scientists also are calling for the development of enforceable international standards for building ventilation.

    “Everyone is much more aware of the space around them,” said Cincinnati 2030 District Director Elizabeth Rojas. Even before the pandemic, her organization began work on healthy building issues. That new aspect of its programs debuts this summer, she said.

    Guidance from OSHA and the CDC has been used in the past to set minimum standards for negligence cases, lawyers at Huntons Andrews Kurth wrote in the National Law Review this month. State shield laws might affect liability for COVID-19 cases. Yet updated versions of the recommendations may well set standards for reducing other airborne illnesses even after the pandemic, especially as scientists focus on future epidemics and pandemics

    Sales pitches for work to improve air quality have become more common in the wake of COVID-19.

    “A lot of our clients got approached by different vendors with new technologies,” said Peter Kleinhenz, an energy efficiency consultant with Go Sustainable Energy in Columbus. In some cases, the pandemic has been the first time many companies have thought about ventilation and filtration systems, he noted.

    Striking a balance

    Projects to increase ventilation or filtration often increase energy use. Bringing in more outside air typically requires heating or cooling systems to run more often. Similarly, increased filtration generally makes blowers work harder to push air through.

    Yet attention to energy efficiency can offset some or even all of the extra energy costs. 

    Rojas noted one building owner in her area who thought increased venting would increase total energy use and raise energy costs. In fact, usage “stayed the same, because they had optimized their system [for energy efficiency] at the same time,” she said.

    “Any time a building is starting to consider capital improvements to their system, that opens the door for them to also look at how should they improve energy efficiency,” Kleinhenz said. Companies also can benefit by minimizing business interruptions.

    “As you are getting crews in the building, are there other things you want to do to reduce energy costs and improve operations to increase comfort in the building?” said Steve Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “You should think about what are some of the other things that could be done at modest additional cost that could really help the building function better.”

    Good ventilation “means having enough ventilation, but not too much,” Nadel said. “Too much ventilation doesn’t help at all in terms of getting buildings drafty.”

    Redoing work to commission a building’s HVAC systems is one basic and relatively inexpensive step, Nadel and Kleinhenz said. Basically, engineers make sure all equipment is at the right settings, that controls work properly, and that other equipment functions as designed. Something as simple as stuck air intake or exhaust vents or dysfunctional dampers can cause both ventilation problems and energy waste. Getting everything back in shape improves air quality and comfort while saving money, they said.

    Another step is to adjust energy and ventilation controls for different occupancy levels. Cicigoi saw wide variability during the pandemic, with some workplaces shutting down, others having all employees come in, and still others working on shifts or other hybrid schedules.

    Starting this summer, more businesses’ occupancy levels will be closer to normal — or whatever new normal levels companies adopt after months of people working remotely. Even then, however, many buildings will have times with few or no workers there, especially at night.

    Adjusting controls to reduce air exchanges or modify other settings at those times “can save a lot of energy, as long as they bring it back up when the building is occupied again,” Kleinhenz said. “Things like this can actually help save energy in the building, while still meeting the different code requirements for the building’s health purposes.”

    “You need an expert to figure out what you can do reasonably,” Nadel said. Owners need to make sure that even minor steps will work properly with the rest of a building’s systems.

    Nadel gave an example of one office building where better filters have improved air quality. But going to the next level of filters would require more powerful motors for the building’s blowers, and those aren’t due for replacement yet. Checking air circulation and filtration again is on the list for when that replacement happens in a few years.

    Pairing energy efficiency with ventilation improvements becomes even more important for larger projects. In one study, Italian researchers calculated that combining an energy efficient heat exchanger and heat pump with increased school ventilation can offset extra energy consumption between 60% and 72%. The report was in Energy and Buildings on June 1.

    A good investment

    Creative tools like PACE financing and pass-through loans arranged through the Ohio Air Quality Development Agency can help companies come up with the upfront money needed for larger energy efficiency projects.

    Payback periods vary. Building owners often recoup the costs for commissioning and other relatively inexpensive energy efficiency measures within a year or less, Kleinhenz said. More major work, such as replacing systems, can have payback periods of up to 10 years.

    One major benefit of Ohio’s energy efficiency standard had been to shorten that payback time, thus encouraging investments. That standard was frozen from 2015 to 2016 and then gutted by House Bill 6.

    Nonetheless, many energy efficiency investments still “will have a return on investment of 20% or better,” Nadel said. At that rate, companies earn back their investment in roughly five years. Even a return of 10% is as good as or better than the rate of return many businesses get in a year, he said.


  • June 20, 2021 12:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
    By Michaela Oldfield, Director, Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council 

    The Enquirer’s recent profile of area farmers markets is a helpful guide to where and when people can buy locally grown produce and other fare. We’d like to add a little bit about why farmers markets are an important component of the local food scene and some important context about their role in feeding our region.

    Farmers markets saw record numbers and sales last year, a trend that’s continued into 2021. This is obviously a welcome development, but as with so many other industries, the increased interest is also posing some challenges. Farms may not have enough product, given vagaries in weather and other factors. Meat has been particularly difficult. With consumer demand surging, a preexisting bottleneck in meat processing has worsened, with slaughterhouses booked out through 2022.

    Consumers can help farms buffer against variable demand by buying Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares, which allow consumers to invest in a farm at the beginning of the season and receive a box of the product the farm produces each week. It also helps when shoppers come to the market with an open mind and a willingness to try what’s available, rather than having a set list of items to purchase. This approach can also lead to new discoveries, as you can always find recipes for whatever unusual vegetable you might pick up. We highly recommend starting with Edible Ohio Valley, which is a regional publication that offers great stories and recipes on what's local and in season.

    In addition to farmers markets, resources like Local Food Connection also allow consumers to tap into local farmers and their products. Local Food Connection is a Cincinnati-based food hub that aggregates from small farms and makes their offerings conveniently available to institutions and restaurants. As restaurants reopen and ramp up their offerings, seeking out and eating at businesses that support small, local farmers is an additional boost to our local economy, as dollars stay here instead of being funneled elsewhere. Prioritizing locally grown food also yields more nutritious offerings and decreases the carbon footprint of our meals.

    It is not just home-cooked and restaurant meals that benefit from a local approach to food purchasing. Parents of Cincinnati Public Schools students are supporting the local food system because the district is a statewide leader in buying food from local farmers. CPS is also a national leader through their adoption of the Good Food Purchasing Program, which directs some of the district’s multi-million dollar food budget back into the regional economy, creating jobs that stay in the community, promoting humane farming and using healthy local food in cafeterias.

    Farmers markets, with their artisanal bread and organic eggs, have a reputation for luxury and affluence, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Markets throughout the region reflect their communities, with many working to expand access to all residents, no matter what their income level is. Organizations like Produce Perks Midwest also run programs that subsidize farmers market purchases for low income consumers, helping consumers’ dollars go even further when they shop local.

    At the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council, we’re committed to expanding access to local foods for everyone in the region. The Enquirer’s listing of farmers markets is an important guide, and resources like the Central Ohio River Valley Food Guide and Edible Ohio Valley also provide extensive information on where to shop for food locally, from CSAs and farmers markets to restaurants that prioritize local ingredients. It’s an exciting time to be part of the regional food scene, and there’s no better time than the height of this growing season to take advantage of all our local farmers have to offer.

    Michaela Oldfield is director of the Greater Cincinnati Local Food Policy Council.

  • June 14, 2021 2:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WVXU
    By Tana Weingartner

    Trail enthusiasts will gather Monday morning for a ceremonial groundbreaking on the final phase of the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

    Great Parks of Hamilton County says the half-mile Beechmont Bridge Connector finally ties the popular 78-mile trail from Springfield to Anderson Township into Cincinnati.

    Tri-State Trails Director Wade Johnston is excited.

    "We know more people are turning to the trails as a way to stay active and healthy," he says. "This is going to make trails more accessible to a wider audience of people and help people make that choice to walk or to bike more during their daily lives."

    The project includes a tunnel under the State Route 32 westbound ramp to Beechmont. It then passes under Beechmont and will cross a new bridge over the Little Miami.

    "This project is a huge, complex project, and right now, Beechmont Levee is a big barrier for most people to bike from the Little Miami (Scenic) Trail to downtown Cincinnati," Johnston says, calling it a game-changer for many because it will connect the trail to Otto Armleder Park and the Lunken Trail, and eventually to downtown Cincinnati.

    Part of that extension to downtown includes connecting with what's called the CROWN. The Cincinnati Riding or Walking Network officially launched earlier this month. It will be a 34-mile urban loop that also serves as a hub for 600 miles of trails in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

    The $7.9 million Beechmont Bridge Connector includes funds from Great Parks along with state and federal matching dollars.

    "The Beechmont Bridge Connector represents a major step forward for our regional trail system," says Todd Palmeter, CEO of Great Parks in a release. "For the first time, trail users will be able to continue from the Little Miami Scenic Trail to the Ohio River Trail safely and without disruption. The public showed their support for important trail connections during our Comprehensive Master Plan process, and the Connector has always been a top priority for Great Parks."

  • June 03, 2021 2:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Business Courier
    By Chris Wetterich

    Kroger Health and United Dairy Farmers are donating $1 million apiece to help complete a key portion of the Crown, a major network of bicycle and pedestrian trails throughout Cincinnati and Hamilton County. The contributions are part of $6 million in total donations announced Wednesday.

    The two companies will be represented as “crown jewels” on the trail through artwork to be commissioned. UDF’s installation will be on Montgomery Road near where UDF’s founder, Carl Lindner Sr., opened his first production facility in Norwood. Kroger’s will be downtown.

    “The impact this project brings to the city is going to be really incredible,” said UDF CEO Brad Lindner, himself a bicyclist, often on off-road mountain biking trails. “United Dairy Farmers is a neighborhood store. This is going to be something that links so many neighborhoods together. Making connections today is more important than ever. The city’s been very good to us, and I think this is a project that serves much of the city, if not all of the city.”

    Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health, said funding the Crown fits into the company’s broader business.

    “Our vision is to help people live healthier lives, and we believe this project will do just that. Just as healthy eating and community health care are vital to improving physical and mental wellness, so is maintaining an active lifestyle,” she said.

    A total of 150 companies and foundations have committed to support the Crown, according to Wym and Jan Portman, who are leading the private fundraising campaign.

    Spaces for two more $1 million gifts have been reserved, with stakeholders hoping to bring the total raised to $8 million. Requests for those gifts are pending, Portman said.

    Roughly $4 million will be used to match federal funding for Wasson Way, a part of the core, $50 million, 34-mile urban loop. With that contribution, it will allow Wasson Way to be completed from the University of Cincinnati to Red Bank Road. Another $2 million will go for a bike trail along the Oasis Rail Line, which runs from downtown to Lunken Airport. The city recently signed a term sheet with the railroad that has an easement on the site for its use as a bike trail.

    Portman, a longtime Cincinnati business leader who led the Portman Equipment Company and Pon North America and served on the University of Cincinnati board, said such trails are vital to attracting and retaining workers in the region, not to mention the economic development that comes along with them.

    “The talent piece is huge,” Wym Portman said. “We think this trail … will be the best trail in the Midwest. People are already buying up real estate. At Homerama (in the East End), they’re marketing homes as being close to the bike trail.”

    The Crown will be free to use and connect people and their neighbors safely to parks, universities, medical centers, arts organizations and other institution. Once additional connections to other communities outside the main loop are added, the project will encompass 100 miles of bike trails. About half of the 34-mile Crown urban loop is complete, which includes portions of the Mill Creek Trail, the Ohio River Trail, Wasson Way, Murray Path, the trail around Lunken Airport and the Little Miami Scenic Trail. The Crown will link 54 neighborhoods and 356,000 people together.

    The city, the county, their parks departments, nonprofits Wasson Way and Ohio River Way, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority and Tri-State Trails, an initiative of Green Umbrella, are involved in the public-private partnership building the Crown.

    “We’re connecting people in a safe and equitable way to places that they care about and places that can improve their lives,” said Jan Portman. “Everybody cares about safety. The trail’s really important from that perspective.”

    The private fundraising isn’t over. The Portmans said there is major interest from groups and companies in helping fund the Mill Creek phase of the Crown, which will connect neighborhoods along the creek and eventually the West Side to the rest of the network. Groups are also interest in programmatic elements that will activate the trail.

    Portman also hopes if there is a federal infrastructure bill, it will help fund the Mill Creek trial, which is broken up into several, unconnected pieces now. The Business Courier included the Crown as one of its top 5 infrastructure priorities for the region in last week’s Weekly Edition cover story.

    Learn more at http://crowncincinnati.org/

  • May 28, 2021 2:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Business Courier
    By Chris Wetterich

    Greater Cincinnati, like every community across the United States, may be in line for once-in-a-generation infrastructure investments if President Joe Biden and Congress can agree on a plan and a way to pay for it in the coming months. That’s a big “if,” but the region has plenty of nettlesome problems that may be years or decades away from being solved unless the federal government can provide assistance and financial resources.

    A major issue for the business community will be Biden’s plan to raise taxes on corporate income in order to fund the $1.7 trillion proposal, which Biden modified recently to court GOP votes. Recently, others have pushed alternatives to tax increases. To wit, increased enforcement of existing laws to collect unpaid taxes and user fees like a gas tax increase also have been floated.

    The Business Courier talked with civic, political and business leaders, and drew upon years of regional coverage for this hit list of top infrastructure needs. Some of the choices are obvious, while others likely will spark argument.

    The bridge on everyone's list comes with an asterisk

    If any project is going to get funding under a federal infrastructure bill, local officials believe it will be the Brent Spence Bridge project. Ohio, Kentucky and local officials have long touted the Brent Spence’s role in moving nearly 3% of the nation’s gross domestic product.

    Top business leaders reignited the push for the project after last year’s massive fire. It stemmed from a truck collision that closed the bridge for nearly six weeks.

    But the state of Kentucky remains the sticking point. If tolls are going to be a part of any financing plan, the Kentucky legislature would have to first remove a ban on tolling the bridge. Covington Mayor Joe Meyer remains a staunch opponent, believing his community will be hurt by the bridge’s wide footprint and by the diversion of traffic from people seeking to avoid tolls. Ohio officials recently pledged to work with Covington to mitigate impacts, but no deal has been struck.

    “There’s no way when the president says he’s going to fix the 10 most economically significant bridges that the Brent Spence Bridge isn’t on that list,” said Pete Metz, the Cincinnati USA Chamber’s transportation policy manager.

    Somehow, the leader of the project pack

    A decade ago, few would have thought the replacement for the Western Hills Viaduct, which carries 55,000 cars a day, would be on a path toward completion before the Brent Spence Bridge, which carries about 160,000. But that’s the outlook in 2021, according to Hamilton County Engineer Eric Beck.

    “I think our momentum is a little bigger than theirs,” Beck said of the viaduct. “I’m assuming we will be completed before they are.”

    Work will begin this year. Properties in the right-of-way will be demolished. A Duke Energy substation also will have to be moved. The 2020 Hamilton County transportation sales tax can be tapped to fill in project gaps. About $30 million will be available on a cash basis in the first year, although it’s unlikely all of it will be spent on the viaduct.

    The viaduct is essential, said Henry Frondorf, vice chair of the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District, a governing body that allocates funding for transportation projects in the region.

    “People always think of it as a West Side thing. But right across the viaduct you have the University of Cincinnati. If there’s a hospital run, a lot of those ambulances are coming down to the viaduct to get to the West Side,” he said. “There’s not an easy way to get to (the West Side) without that direct connection. The other viaduct or bridges are not capable of supporting those extra 55,000 cars a day.”

    The new bridge will be more pedestrian-friendly, with two wide paths, which could help it secure federal money. The state recently agreed to take responsibility for building new ramps from I-75.

    “One of the reasons it was struggling for funding was because the connection to I-75 wasn’t in there,” Frondorf said. The federal government viewed it as, “not a regional project.”

    A bus more folks could get on board with

    As a part of its broad Reinventing Metro plan, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority already anticipates two bus-rapid transit lines along corridors to be selected. Using local matching funds from the 2020 Hamilton County transportation tax, the agency expects to be able to secure money from existing federal funds, said CEO Darryl Haley.

    But a major national infrastructure plan would allow Metro to add two other BRT lines, plan for additional ones, and buy new electric buses, Haley said.

    BRT is essentially a bus line that acts like a rail line, with frequent service. It has dedicated bus lanes along routes, traffic signals that give buses traffic priority, stations, fewer stops, and a fare system where a rider pays before boarding the bus.

    “A lot of businesses (are) struggling to hire people,” Haley said. “With BRT, it’s going to connect the people who need the jobs to those jobs in a convenient way.”

    BRT speeds up buses so they become even more efficient than driving. “It’ll change the view people have of public transportation,” Haley said. “Get out of your car. Get on the bus. You can work while you’re on it. It starts to make sense.”

    Consultants will review Metro’s planned BRT routes along Hamilton Avenue, Reading Road, Montgomery Road and Glenway Avenue for traffic flow, density and the possibility of bus-only lanes, Haley said.

    According to Metz, the transportation tax money will make a major difference with the feds.

    “We’ve set up Cincinnati and SORTA to be one of the best-performing transit agencies in the country,” he said. The federal government is “going to look at places that are investing in transportation systems and Cincinnati is rapidly moving up that list.”

    A "crown" jewel for the Queen City

    Five years ago, the biking community announced a sweeping vision for a network of bicycle and pedestrian trails throughout Cincinnati and Hamilton County that would be used not only for recreation but as a transportation network. They’ve named it CROWN, for Cincinnati Riding or Walking Network.

    Wasson Way, a key portion that will run from Uptown to Fairfax, will be completed in the next few years. Meanwhile, the city has an agreement to acquire the rights to build a trail along the Oasis Railway, which will connect downtown to the Little Miami Trail.

    Bike trails are an amenity that attracts development, talent and jobs, leaders say. “When you buy a house, being next to a bike trail is a huge draw,” said Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus. “The pandemic has a lot to do with renewed energy for outdoor recreation and people getting to and fro on bike lanes. That is a forward-thinking way to think about infrastructure.”

    With the eastern part of the loop underway, planners are now talking about a key north-south leg that runs along the Mill Creek from downtown to Northside, through industrial and impoverished communities. “The Mill Creek corridor is best situated for what we’re hearing is going to be a priority for the Biden administration’s plan, which is equity,” said Wade Johnston, the director of Tristate Trails, a key part of Green Umbrella, the sustainability group helping lead efforts to get CROWN constructed.

    Johnston noted that the Mill Creek corridor communities were bisected and damaged economically by I-75. From there, spurs can be built out to West Side neighborhoods that are underserved. “We hope we can create support for that investment and prioritize affordable housing along the corridor,” Johnston said. “We hope the trail could reconnect these neighborhoods and make it easier and more comfortable to ride your bike.”

    Who says you can't create more land?

    Driehaus chuckled at the notion of the long-awaited decks over Fort Washington Way being a top regional infrastructure priority, noting that the city and county have undeveloped land at the Banks that still needs to be built. “I understand the vision,” she said. “I am more focused on the Banks and finishing what we started than investing in the decks. We do need to do some more infrastructure work.” Nevertheless, if the federal government is willing to pay for them, Driehaus said she would consider it.

    When Fort Washington Way was narrowed, it was rebuilt with the capability to construct decks or podiums that would hold up to a five-story building. In 2017, when the region was trying to lure Amazon’s second headquarters, a single deck was estimated to cost $25 million. In 2019, Mayor John Cranley and the late Commissioner Todd Portune pledged to work together on options to build them.

    The case for the decks is simple: Building them would fully reconnect the riverfront to downtown, and the city and county would be able to create four brand-new downtown blocks ripe for post-pandemic development, whether it be a park, office, residential or retail property. Or perhaps all of the above.

    Portune believed the region could secure the funding for one deck and use the property, sales and income tax generated to construct the next one and so on.

    “Capping the highway, in theory, would pay for itself,” Frondorf said. “They have to sell it like that.”


  • May 24, 2021 2:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WVXU
    By Michael Monks

    There are many reasons to get excited about Bike Month in Cincinnati. The pandemic has brought an unexpected bike boom, with more people hitting the road in the last year. There are also new trails opening up.

    The Cincinnati Riding or Walking Network, or CROWN, is serving as a hub connecting Greater Cincinnati's regional trails to Downtown. Several stretches of the 34-mile urban trail loop were connected over the past year and more work is underway.

    Also new for cyclists, Tri-State Trails has released a new tool for beginning bikers to use to navigate the urban core. The Low Stress Bike Map provides comfortable routes, hand-picked by experienced local cyclists to help you plan your next bike commute.

    And if you're looking for a cycling tour of our region, a new book for cycling enthusiasts takes readers through towns including Edenton, Loveland, Felicity and Utopia. Bicycling Through Paradise is a collection of 20 historically themed cycling tours broken into 10-mile segments. The authors Kathleen Smythe and Chris Hanlin join Cincinnati Edition along with Tri-State Trails Director Wade Johnston to discuss Bike Month.

    Listen to the episode at https://www.wvxu.org/post/more-ways-hit-trails-bike-month-2021#stream/0

  • May 19, 2021 2:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: River City News

    National Bike to Work Day will be celebrated Friday near the Purple People Bridge in Newport.

    Breakfast on the Bridge is being held on May 21 from 7 to 9 a.m. for the twelfth year, presented as part of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Bike Month.

    Though the Purple People Bridge remains closed to traffic due to falling rock and an ongoing evaluation of the structure, festivities will be head at the approach of the bridge, just east of Newport on the Levee.

    Bicyclists can ride the Metro and TANK buses for free if they bring their bike on the bus on May 21.

    The event is presented by Tri-State Trails, an initiative of Green Umbrella.

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