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New Life on a Dead End

Photo by Gaszton Gal

 

was relieved to find architect Darwin McCredie’s home/office at the terminus of a dead end street. I hadn’t expected this: this workmanlike byway, this back zone of Ojai with its hodgepodge of blue-collar businesses and their assortment of mechanical detritus.

This was good; this was where a Quonset hut should live.

My default expectation of McCredie’s contemporized hut (page 15)went more like this: Another big city escapee with a bit of cash and a hip idea takes on a pet project in rural Ventura County, tricking out an old structure in one corner of his pastoral paradise.

There would be nothing wrong, per se, with this picture. But I was hoping for something more honest, something closer to the roots of the Quonset hut, which was created purely for function during WWII: form be damned; ship it, slap it together, put it to work; the original prefab building (before the architectural vanguard advanced the concept of prefabulous).

Yes, I was hoping for something grubby. Externally anyway. Inside, Darwin’s pad is a different story, all white walls and open space. Contemporary cool. Yet were it not for his architectural vision, this property would likely be sitting vacant right now, another overgrown lot—this one housing a bulletproof structure—wasting away on a dead end street. I can’t help but wonder how many other commercial and residential properties are out there gathering cobwebs as I write this note.

When you think about sustainable building in terms of using pre-existing materials—in this case an entire structure—it seems wonderfully uncomplicated. Simple. Efficient. I mean, half the work is done already. Right?

If only it were so easy.

One of the aspects I most appreciate about Andrea Kitay’s story on page 34—“Hollywood (Beach) Goes Platinum,” a look at Ventura County’s first LEED Platinum-certified home—is that she doesn’t sweep the elephant under the rug. She raises the question of viability for normal folks, people who don’t have the money, much less the time and energy to jump through logistical hoops, required by such a project. To her credit, architect Martha Picciotti (cover) affirms the process is neither cheap nor easy.

Clearly, this level of sustainable building isn’t for every homeowner. Not yet at least. We know that. We’re not on a soapbox preaching the gospel of green here. Our hope, and expectation, is that sustainable building will be someday become de rigueur rather than the claim of a select few. That a great shift will occur when complete neighborhoods, entire cities even, are built using strategies to improve energy efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, and sensitivity to their impacts.

Until then we’ll highlight the leading edge—homes like this one on Hollywood Beach, Oxnard. We’ll keep in mind that the shopworn word “green” is part of virtually every marketing campaign out there, from McDonald’s to the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce. (It’s hard to actually see the trees through all the green spin.)

No, we don’t run stories like this from an elevated platform. Ventana is simply a window onto Ventura County, as our name—the Spanish word for window—implies.

Of course, windows work both ways. I’m always open to suggestions—you’ve read those words before in these notes of mine. Unfortunately, many of the “tips” I receive are thinly disguised attempts at self-promotion. If you have a story idea you can objectively envision here, drop me an email.

Among the changes we’re considering for 2011 is the inclusion of readers’ letters, a section for your voice. So, reader, what’s on your mind?

12-01-2010

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