Hermosa Beach Home Redefines Eco-Friendly
BY KATHY A. MCDONALD
Robert and Monica Fortunato deconstructed their 1959-built, post-and-beam tract home down to the studs. The result over the course of a yearlong construction project—and after several years of research—is the Green Idea House, a case-study home of energy efficiency, sponsored in part by Southern California Edison and Build It Green. And, not to be understated, a sustainably built, eco-conscious home that bridges the stylistic gap between stilettos and Earth shoes.
As green technologies evolve, new home projects and remodels are both increasingly well-designed and environmentally sound. And unlike LA's first generation of eco-friendly homes, which used great ideas but seemed to involve unusual (aka aesthetically-challenging) construction materials such as recycled tires, rammed earth, or straw bale, newer examples rely on more readily-found building materials suitable for suburbia. Real estate agents have taken note, too, as homes that are green-labeled are sought after and predictably valued five to 10 percent more than conventional properties. Homeowners can now have it all: comfort, function, conscience, and traffic-stopping chic.
The now-2,100-square-foot Hermosa Beach habitat has a list of water- and energy-saving features. What's more, to equal net zero—meaning on an annual basis the house creates as much (or more) power as it actually uses—the Fortunatos added solar panels to the rooftop for power and remodeled the house with energy-smart attributes. A five-foot overhang serves as an umbrella, shading the building in summer and allowing for passive heating in winter. Cellulose insulation and double-paned windows make the house as airtight as possible. "We used simple, affordable technologies that are state of the art," says Robert. At the house's core is a stairwell that opens at the roofline and acts as a thermal chimney, ventilating the entire house so air conditioning is not needed and natural drafting occurs.
While the Green Idea House's infrastructure was designed to reduce energy use, the finishes were also selected for their green attributes. The bathrooms' shimmering glass tiles were sourced from 90 percent recycled glass in Baja, Mexico, and the living room's redwood ceiling planks were recycled from another property. The home's corrosion-resistant Galvalume cladding was manufactured in Fontana, and the no-painting-required exterior stucco was made from recycled concrete. "Our goal was to create a beautiful, comfortable home that's also environmentally sensitive," says Monica Fortunato.
The Fortunatos utilized up to $8,000 in rebates provided through Energy Upgrade California, a program that underwrites energy-saving solutions. Certified eco-brokers are one source for advice on how to access energy-saving tax credits and green loans. And companies such as John Shipman's Energy Efficiency Management counsel homeowners on how to cost-effectively make their houses energy efficient while keeping a traditional look. "What we do is often out of sight," says Shipman. "It's in the insulation, walls, attic, and ducts." Although real estate agents emphasize curb appeal, energy-efficiency upgrades result in a home that uses less power, reducing the long-term cost of home ownership.
"I get huge interest from buyers in houses that are green," says Monique Carrabba, a realtor and certified EcoBroker with Keller Williams Realty in the Hollywood Hills. Green houses even have their own multiple-listing service, Listed Green, on which buyers can search for homes that are LEED certified or GreenPoint Rated.
"This is not a trend, it's the face of architecture in the future," says Warren Wagner, principal architect and owner of Venice's W3 Architects. (Among his many projects is a rustic-modern, 5,600-square-foot passive-solar home in Pacific Palisades.) Sustainable building practices are now widely adopted by the profession. As building codes advance and material choices broaden, Wagner finds clients are also better informed. "Ten years ago, I had to sell these things to clients," he says. "That's not the case anymore."