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Hollywood (Beach) Goes Platinum

On a quiet Oxnard beach, a design team created an eco-friendly home—the first in Ventura County to achieve LEED Platinum certification—that defies the rustic connotations of being “green.”

By Andrea Kitay—Photos by Gaszton Gal

Colored like the surrounding sand, the home fits snugly in an eclectic neighborhood yet outperforms California energy standards requirements.

 

t’s official. Oxnard’s 20-something miles of clean, white sand beaches now boast the county’s first LEED-certified home. And not just any certification, but the pinnacle LEED for Homes Platinum certification, the highest award conferred by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

The owner’s favorite blue pops against muted tones in a celebration of beach living.

Nicknamed Villa Versare, the four-bedroom, three-bath home is a study in, well, normal. The home flows into Hollywood Beach’s visual landscape so well it escapes notice, revealing nothing particularly “green” to passersby. Villa Versare’s exterior looks like classic beachfront construction: light-colored stucco walls, circular staircase leading to the roof (painted blue in this case), glass-paneled garage door, and a diminutive entryway.

It is remarkably—unremarkable. And that’s exactly the way designer Darrell Schmitt wants it. His locally based design firm, Darrell Schmitt Design Associates, is responsible for such notable projects as the Montage Beverly Hills and Newport Beach’s The Resort at Pelican Hill. According to Schmitt, in the case of green homes, unremarkable is better.

“We didn’t want it to be the standout on the block,” explains Schmitt. “Most of my clients don’t want the distinction of owning the house people point out as the green house, because it usually means bamboo floors and wheat board cabinets. They don’t want to be the Birkenstock house when they prefer Prada.”

Villa Versare is nestled into Hollywood Beach’s small enclave of year-round professionals, weekend warriors, and die-hard surfers who discovered the area through surprisingly similar stories of serendipity. Anything but a whim, the project began at the cocktail-napkin stage with the specific goal of achieving LEED certification. To get things started, Schmitt put together a crack team, including Ventura-based architect Martha Picciotti of MP Design and contractor MC and Son Builders, as well as the critical addition of a LEED consultant.

In the guestroom, LEED points were garnered for reuse of existing furniture.

LEED, which stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” is a voluntary program run by the USGBC. According to their website, “LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.”

A spiral stairway leads from the library to a rooftop sundeck.

The team approached the project with the goal of achieving a net-zero, low-impact home with a twist. Passing on as many of the usual green materials as possible, they instead chose conventional building materials, often recycled, where possible.

In addition to the massive wall of glass providing a panoramic view from the Channel Islands Harbor to Santa Barbara on a clear day, the interior has ceramic tile floors, standard sheetrock, plaster, and stone. The all-glass west wall lets in both sunlight and creates ventilation, contributing to the building’s 58.4 percent better-than-standard California energy code requirements. Recycled glass tile brightens the three bathrooms, which are all handicap compliant with widened doorways and wheelchair-accessible showers. A wheelchair-accessible elevator services all three levels, from basement to second story. CaesarStone countertops rest atop formaldehyde-free cabinets in the kitchen, library, and office/art studio. The library’s taupe-colored recycled carpet squares stay in place with just a dab of adhesive.

Also atop the house, a photovoltaic system provides hot water and electricity. (A recent electric bill was just 94 cents.)

Noting the recent monthly electric bill of 94 cents, Schmitt maintains that what you don’t see is as important as what you do. For LEED certification, critical points can be accrued from the earliest stages of construction, including recycling and reusing the demolished building, using neighborhood infill, and situating the new house to both create cross ventilation and maximize passive solar heat. Villa Versare’s roof holds two photovoltaic systems, one which heats the holding tank’s water and another which feeds the electrical system, including radiant heat. Low-VOC recycled paper insulation has been blown into walls and easily obtainable low-VOC paints, sealers, adhesives, and caulking were used throughout the home.

Despite its fidelity to LEED standards, the house doesn’t lack for comfort. Plush sofas, overstuffed pillows … and that view

The result is a 3,000-square-foot serene beachfront home where a monochrome design scheme—linen-colored walls, white furniture, and an occasional pop of the homeowner’s favorite, aqua blue—keep the focus on the expansive view of the ocean and the Channel Islands. “I wanted the house to be an afterthought to the view,” says Schmitt.

The master bedroom, a creative alternative to the traditional suite common in modern construction, has the bed tucked back into the loft above the living room. Wispy linen drapes hang from recessed hospital tracks surrounding the bed; swept to the side they allow a view out. The loft-style design allows for soaring ceiling in the main floor’s living and dining areas and, by extension, more wall to fill with glass. This solution serves the dual purpose of giving the same spectacular view of surf and sand to the master bedroom.

The house features wheelchair-friendly bathrooms with formaldehyde-free laminate.

So how difficult is it, and how much more does it cost, to build a green house? According to Picciotti, creating a LEED-certified property can add time and costs. “The homeowners must understand the LEED checklist, as this is where points are earned for LEED certification. The architect incorporates items selected on the checklist into the construction documents, and this takes some time…The products can be harder to find, more expensive, and often require specialized installers with higher fees…Special inspections by a LEED representative are also required, again adding costs.”

With the experience behind him, Schmitt is encouraged by the team’s success in showing that “with proper attention to LEED standards, a more conventionally designed house can still achieve the highest level of LEED certification; in this way, the LEED standard may be more appealing to more people.”

12-01-2010

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