This residential remodel and reconstruction involved a significant architectural style alteration from the traditional design found in the older homes of the Woodside Highlands area to a very contemporary style. Recycled and sustainably harvested vertical redwood siding in a natural weathered finish with weathered metal panels and cross-bracing blends well with the native, wooded site conditions. Extensive use of low-e glass allows for both capturing of wooded views and utilization of natural indoor lighting while reducing energy needs for heating and cooling of the structure. Installation of a highly durable metal alloy roof reflects summer heat, while in winter it acts to reflect the interior heat from the underside of the roof back into the building. No air conditioning system has been installed; the combination of natural ventilation, low-e windows, metal roofing, and on-site vegetation will serve to keep inside temperatures down in the warmer months. The interior of the home offers a very organic, comfortable feel with its installation of sustainable bamboo and cork flooring, recycled glass and paper-based countertops, and stone obtained from Mexico. Paints and cabinets with low VOC’s were purposely chosen to provide healthier indoor air quality.
The house before construction began
The house at the end of construction
Green Design Elements
The following sustainable materials have been thoughtfully and beautifully incorporated into the rebuilding of this home. The owners were highly motivated to include as many green/less toxic materials as practical; they had a very good idea of what they wanted prior to starting the design process. The many hours of personal research on products and technology brought them closer to their building project and kept them on top of the best green options to meet their needs and check book.
Bamboo Flooring The owners chose bamboo for its sustainability and relative hardness. Due to the installation of in-floor hydronic heat tubing, a tongue and groove plank system has been floated on the floor. During their research process, they found that not all bamboo flooring is created equally; harder floors come from older growth bamboo. When it comes to purchasing bamboo flooring, you need to seek out higher quality, later-harvested bamboo if floor hardness is a concern. It also took some time to find a manufacturer that would warranty the flooring placed over the hydronic heat.
Cork Flooring Cork flooring, made from the peeled bark of cork oak trees, is durable, sound absorbing, soft underfoot, and completely sustainable. The owners have installed cork on their kitchen floor; a great idea if you drop dishes often!
Recycled Glass Countertops/Tiles Beautiful recycled glass countertops have been installed in the kitchen, bathroom, and on the television cabinet; recycled glass tile accents have been applied on bathroom wall.
Recycled Paper-Based Countertop A warm, paper-based counter has been installed in laundry room.
Bamboo Plywood Bamboo plywood is 100% sustainable bamboo using low VOC emitting adhesives. It can be cut and sanded using conventional woodworking equipment. This material was installed in all of the home’s closets and was also used on the interior stairs.
Paints/Cabinets Both paints and cabinets were chosen to contain low levels of VOC’s.
Hydronic Heating Zones
An advantage of radiant hydronic heat is being able to create heating zones in your home to minimize energy use for unoccupied areas. This home now has zones for: each bedroom, the master bathroom, combination of dining room/kitchen/breakfast area/living room, and combination of tv/play room/laundry room. Other bathrooms in the house are zoned with the adjacent room.
Tankless Water Heaters This project involves installation of 3 natural gas fired, tankless units; one dedicated to the hydronic heating system and the other two for each half of the house. Capacities are at 199 gph.
LED Track Lighting LED track lighting has been installed throughout the home with bulbs rated at a lifetime of 50,000 hours. A single 3 watt LED bulb is equivalent to a 15 – 20 watt halogen.
Exterior Wood Siding The siding on this residence is a combination of both recycled and sustainably harvested redwood. The owners report they had some difficulty in obtaining enough locally recycled redwood for the project.
Windows This project’s design allows for plentiful natural light into the building. The windows are also low-e, energy efficient to reduce demands for artificial cooling and heating.
Metal Roofing A 55% aluminum - 45% zinc alloy coated sheet steel roof covers this reconstructed home. This product is resistant to corrosion with a life expectancy of 20+ years. It is a good reflector of heat, reducing summer cooling costs, while in the winter, it makes buildings warmer by reflecting the interior heat from the underside of the roof back into the building.
Decking The deck is constructed of sustainably harvested redwood.
Q & A: The Owner’s Feedback
Did you have these numerous green design elements in mind for your project when you first sought an architect? Or did your architect assist you by providing sustainable options/information as the design took shape?
“Both. We also did a lot of the research as the project was proceeding, since the technology and availability of the various elements shifted a lot over the course of the last 2 ½ years. The LED bulbs, for example, are much more mature now than 2 years ago; recycled redwood siding availability has shifted over time; and the information available about bamboo floated over hydronic heat has also been a moving target.”
What particular sustainable design elements were you certain you wanted and would not compromise by eliminating them from your project?
“Tankless water heaters, hydronic heating, metal roofing, and low VOC everything.”
Have the costs for your project’s green elements been higher than you expected? If so, did you eliminate any due to budget constraints? If so, which, and what did you opt for instead?
“For most things, the difference between green vs. traditional was actually somewhat less than I expected; often the prices were quite comparable. Sometimes the price difference was so far out of whack that we killed some green elements.” For example, recycled glass tiles to be used as wall accents would have run a couple thousand dollars extra for a small area of coverage in one of the bathrooms, hence they were dropped from the project. Recycled redwood siding was also compromised on as well, however this was due more to the fact that there was a lack of local availability of the material rather than a cost issue. “Switching to sustainably harvested redwood seemed like a reasonable alternative.”
Did you have any difficulty obtaining the various sustainable products used in your project? If so, which and why?
In addition to locating recycled redwood siding, the owners also had to do much legwork in finding the right bamboo flooring to meet their needs and desires.
If you were starting from the beginning in developing your project today, what would you do differently?
“I would probably add better electrical energy monitoring systems to the house.”
Do you have any further comments about your choice of sustainable design elements, the construction process concerning these design elements, or…?
The owners expressed much frustration with the current energy code requirements for energy efficient lighting fixtures in kitchens and bathrooms. “ Unfortunately, manufacturers’ selections of fluorescent fixtures that meet code requirements are very limited and often aesthetically unattractive.”