In California, A Green Dream Home By The Sea

The Burnett residence in the charming coastal town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, (or Carmel, as it’s commonly known) wasn’t exactly built green. This mid-century modern home, like most in the area, was built in the 1960s, a time when local builders apparently saw no problem with letting air and heat pass virtually unimpeded through uninsulated walls and single-pane windows. In a region where winter temperatures tend to hover between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, this results in unnecessarily high energy bills — so when Jason and Melissa Burnett decided to renovate their home, insulation (as you might imagine) was high on the list.

Working with Carver + Schicketanz Architects, the couple added spray-foam and recycled-denim insulation to the home and replaced all of the windows with double-pane glass — two strategic additions that helped their home take LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Burnett Residence outside

image via Carver + Schicketanz

This green home renovation (which comes to us via Dwell) makes use of a 3.44-kilowatt-capacity solar array to power the home, and Control4 and Lutron lighting smart-home systems to make use of that power efficiently. Controlled by a small touchscreen in the home’s office, these systems turn off the lights when rooms are unoccupied and allow the homeowners to set schedules that manage the home’s overall energy consumption.

During renovation, the architects kept the home’s existing oak floors, but replaced the carpet with white resin, adding in-floor radiant heating along the way. Not only does this keep the home toasty in the winter without blowing a whole lot of dust around (as in a traditional, ducted HVAC system), it works intelligently with the way heat rises to get the most bang for the heating buck. The EcoWarm Radiant Subfloor system used here pumps heated water through tubes laid under the flooring; the in-floor tubing also extends up the wall and connects with a hydronic fan convectors’s hot water coils. The coils act as heat exchangers, warming the air as it passes over them, and the fan pushes that air into the room, further distributing the heat.

Up on the rooftop — along with that solar array — is a rooftop garden. Originally, the couple wanted an outdoor dining area, but there wasn’t enough room on the roof to accommodate both this and the garden. The house is located in the middle of its40-by-100-foot corner lot, so the property didn’t offer enough space or privacy from neighbors or passing traffic at the ground level, either. The solution?  A 14.5-by-6.5-foot retractable skylight over the dining room, which opens up in around 10 seconds, thanks to a Rollmatic window. The skylight, in the course of its regular operation, floods the dining area with sunlight; when the skylight is retracted, this feature of the home kicks in some natural ventilation as well.

Burnett Residence, dining room

image via Carver + Schicketanz

For Jason Burnett — a former energy and climate-change policy advisor at the Environmental Protection Agency; a founding partner of Clean Fund, a company that finances renewable energy projects; and a Carmel city council member — renovating their home to a high green standard was a matter of practicing what he preaches. The couple knew they wanted to go for LEED Silver, but Carver + Schicketanz principal Mary Ann Schicketanz encouraged them to aim higher. One by one, the many green touches incorporated into the design added up, garnering the home Platinum designation.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

    • pfiddle

      Well done you. An inspiration to all – and I thought that getting heating bills down to <€450,- annum were good for a 3* B&B