The Green Giant – Can a 10,000 Square Foot Home Be “Green”?

Alton Road, Miami Beach, FL - LEED Platinum
2020 Alton Road, Miami Beach – LEED Platinum

There is a green controversy brewing in Berkeley, California. Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Development Corp and an international philanthropist, wants  to build a 10,000-square-foot house complete with a 10-car garage. Under Berkeley’s current green point system the house would qualify for Berkeley’s “green” designation despite its size, and that has neighbors and local environmentalists upset.

According to the New York Times: Berkeley’s green point system was developed by a nonprofit group called Built It Green and adopted by the city government. Items on the checklist include: tightly seal the air barrier between the garage and living area; insulate hot water pipes; use Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood; use paint low in volatile organic compounds. About 70 local governments in California have ordinances based on the Build It Green checklist, according to Bruce Mast, an executive of the organization.
The article also correctly notes that the United States Green Building Council’s LEED program does reduce points for larger than average homes. Those points must then be regained with additional “green” features and building practices in order to achieve a LEED designation.

Lighthouse Point, FL - LEED Silver
Lighthouse Point, FL – LEED Silver
While virtually everyone agrees that smaller footprint homes are better for our environment, not everyone is going to give up their large luxury homes – nor do I think they should have to. Those who can afford to build a luxury home are also the people who can best afford to include cutting edge “green” materials and techniques, which will in turn benefit all green building at all price levels. We should continue to encourage this type of “green” investment with a sensible point system like the LEED program that addresses the size of the home as well as the sustainability of its design.

Neighbors Susan and Chuck Fadley were quoted in the article as saying that “green building begins with using ‘just enough’ and preserving what already exists. Clearly the idea of ‘just enough’ is not part of the design concept.”  And as an ideal, I agree. But in our idealism, we must not make this or any aspect of sustainable living seem so austere that its achievement feels like a punishment. A luxury home that is also a genuinely “green” home should be showcased because it allows the general public to see that “green building” doesn’t just mean living in a yurt anymore.

Melanie Dawn Molina Wood is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate LLC and a member of the US Green Building Council – South Florida Chapter. She is a designated Eco-Broker and holds her level one Green Leadership (GCREP-GL) certificate among many other certifications and awards.

The Art of Sustainable Luxury

“The Art of Sustainable Luxury” was how the event was billed and on March 25th I was privileged to tour the first LEED for Homes Silver Certified Luxury Residence in Miami-Dade County. What this magnificent 5200 square foot waterfront home shows is that luxury does not need to be sacrificed to low-impact sustainable living.

LEED Silver Home 400x300When the owners first discovered the land parcel for their future home many years ago, the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System) for Homes was still being developed. But by the time they acquired the property, the owners knew they wanted to integrate energy efficiency and environmentally sound elements into their home’s striking design. To help them achieve their goal, they partnered with KZ Architecture; Bell-Aqui, Inc landscape architects; Arbab Engineering, Inc; LNI Engineering; Gary G. Bloom PE civil engineer; and Alejandro Vargas at Visual Lighting. And to supervise the various certifications, the team brought in Gary Shlifer of Green Building Florida; Banks Clark of Environment, Safety and Health LC; and Eric Martin of Florida Solar Energy Center.

In addition to creating a home of breath-taking beauty, the team achieved an impressive set of green certifications:

• LEED for Homes Silver with 78 points
• FGBC Green Home Standard Gold 184 Points
• Energy Star for Homes HERS 72
• Florida Yards & Neighborhoods 226 Points

One of my favorite features of the home is the rainwater harvesting system with a 2500 gallon cistern located under the house and 83% of the roof area dedicated to rainwater capture. The system provides approximately 80% of their annual irrigation needs. Ninety two percent of the home’s finishes (paints, adhesives, etc) were no VOC (Volatile organic compounds) and the home was built with a wood-free insect resistant structure. In Florida, with our termites, carpenter ants and humidity, wood-free construction seems like such an obvious choice, doesn’t it?

The list of sustainable elements incorporated into this home was several pages long and included everything from dual-flush toilets to an exterior ceramic coating that insulates the home the way ceramic tiles insulates the space shuttle for re-entry. With all of the amazing attention to detail, the homeowners will realize almost 30% improved energy efficiency over similar new construction homes built to Florida Code in the same time period. In addition, they diverted 88% of the construction waste away from our landfills. Without a doubt, this home provides a model for what other luxury home developers and owners can accomplish.

For more information and photos of the home, visit KZ Architecture online. And for more information about Miami real estate, don’t hesitate to give me a call at 305-801-3133 or visit my website at http://www.melanieinmiami.com.

Melanie Dawn Molina Wood, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate LLC, is a proud member of the US Green Building Council – South Florida Chapter and a designated Eco-Broker. She also holds her level one Green Leadership (GCREP-GL) certificate among many other certifications and awards.