Modernist Building in Cleveland, Redeveloped as Apartments, Earns LEED Silver

It's still a little unusual for a Modernist-style property to be redeveloped to be more sustainable, since the effort involved can be considerable.

Cleveland—The Residences at 1717, an historic renovation and conversion of the 21-story East Ohio Building in downtown Cleveland to apartments and street-level retail, has earned a LEED Silver rating from the US Green Building Council. The 223-unit project was developed by Willoughby, Ohio-based K&D, and designed by Berardi + Partners of Columbus.

It’s still a little unusual for a Modernist-style property to be redeveloped to be more sustainable, since the effort involved can be considerable. Green building design wasn’t a main emphasis during the mid-20th century heyday of Modernism. Energy was cheap, environmental awareness was minimal, and climate change was an unknown concept when the East Ohio Building was originally developed in 1959 as an office building.

Energy efficiency of the renovated structure is a major factor in its sustainability rating. Sol design + consulting conducted infrared testing to evaluate the selection of window replacements, and it turned out that the retrofit storm windows proved to be energy efficient and a “historically sensitive choice,” according to the developer.

The apartments also received new water source heat pumps served by a new 95 percent efficient gas-fired boiler and refurbished cooling tower. An energy recovery ventilator provides fresh air to the entire building and further enhances energy efficiency. Thorough air sealing of each unit, often a challenge in historic renovations, was nevertheless undertaken, minimizing air infiltration and leakage into common areas and adjacent apartments.

The original East Ohio Building, designed by New York architects Emory Roth and Sons, merited inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, a designation championed by developer K&D and others in Cleveland. As headquarters for the East Ohio Gas Co., the building was only the second high-rise in Cleveland when it was completed, and the first to use a glass curtain wall. The renovation was partially financed with state and federal historic tax credits.

The building sat vacant from 2009 until K&D acquired it in 2012.  The historic renovation, sustainability features, and views of the city and Lake Erie apparently helped make the redevelopment a hit, since as an apartment building, the Residences at 1717 leased up completely in eight months.