The Lux Art Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to environmental art, is creating a new home for itself in Encinitas, Calif., at the edge of the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve—a rare untouched coastal wetland in San Diego County. This sensitive landscape provided both the appeal and the challenge of building on the steep four-acre site.

Santa Monica–based Renzo Zecchetto Architects designed the institute's new building to nestle into the hillside with minimal impact. The building—which houses a visiting artist residence and studio—is the first step in a larger project. A second phase will include a museum and administrative building. The entire project is slated for LEED certification.

Architectural gestures such as the four periscopelike concrete light scoops and a cantilevered roof that folds over the entrance are designed to maximize energy efficiency. The north-facing scoops bring daylight into the studio, while the cantilevered roof protects offices from southern and western sun exposure and heat gain. A large barn door in the studio slides open to provide natural ventilation, reducing the need for mechanical systems. Photovoltaic panels will be added in phase two, further reducing the building's energy demands.

Renzo Zecchetto
 Renzo Zecchetto Architects
Credit: Jim Brady Renzo Zecchetto
Renzo Zecchetto Architects

Energy conservation drove Renzo Zecchetto's material choices and led him to search for local manufacturers. “We design for green in the long run,” he says. “We assess the life span of the building, not the capital investment.” Zecchetto looks carefully at the energy consumption of the products that he specifies. “It is important to utilize materials in their natural state,” he explains. “Raw concrete, solid-state lighting, UV glass, and no paints, chemicals, or solvents.” True to this philosophy, Zecchetto specified cast-in-place concrete and plaster walls with integral color. Other products integrate recycled materials: The teak panels on the building's exterior are embedded with recycled plastic, and the concrete masonry unit (CMU) blocks in the basement are composed of aggregate salvaged from demolished roads.

“There are a lot of incredible materials nowadays: composites, countertop materials like CaesarStone, cement fiber boards,” says Zecchetto. Getting information from manufacturers is critical, but given the current eco trend, it can be tough to sort green from greenwash. A keen awareness of all the sustainable processes that go into construction, from the fuel needed for transportation to high-efficiency lightbulbs, will set the course of future green building. At the edge of the San Elijo Lagoon, these small moves add up to an environmentally responsible building in keeping with the Lux Art Institute's mission.

Project: Lux Art Institute
Location: Encinitas, Calif.
Client: Lux Art Institute
Architect: Renzo Zecchetto Architects, Santa Monica, Calif.
Project Manager: Campbell-Anderson & Associates
Civil Enginner: Aquaterra Engineering
Landscape Designer: California's Own Native Landscape Design
Structural and M/E/P Engineer: TMAD TAYLOR & GAINES
Size: 4,090 square feet
Costs: $1.9 million


Exterior Underground pipe and fittings
Diamond Plastics Corp.

Underground pipe and fittings
Ferguson Enterprises

Underground pipe and fittings
Fast Fabricators

Underground pipe and fittings
Tyler Union

Underground pipe and fittings

Minshew Brothers Steel Construction

Palomar Transit Mix Co.

WRDA 64 concrete admixture
Grace Construction Products

California Portland Cement Co.

Concrete pigment
Davis Colors

RCP Block & Brick

CMU rebar
BlueLinx Corp.

CMU grout ready-mix concrete

Structural steel
Steel Dynamics

Below-grade waterproofing HDPE/bentonite sheet membrane

TREMDrain drainage board

Fiberglass insulation
Owens Corning

Four-ply gravel-surfaced fiberglass built-up roof
Johns Manville

Metal lath
Western Metal Lath

Exterior cement stucco
LaHabra Stucco

Fiber-reinforced stucco base
LaHabra Stucco

Windows and Doors Wood-veneered door
Pacific Architectural Wood Products

Tierra Glass Co.

Dorma 5000 Series exit device

JT 08 exterior door hardware

LM Series exterior door hardware

RTS88 exterior door hardware

Finishes Ceramic tile

Glass tile
Walker Zanger


4133 surface-mounted pocket roller shades
MechoShade Systems

Plumbing and Fixtures Toilet-paper dispenser

Stainless steel grab bar

Paper towel dispenser/waste receptacle

Recessed toilet seat cover dispenser

K-3519 toilet

017109 toilet

K-2210 lavatory bowl

Commercial Line lavatory bowl

12200 lavatory

786-E3-665 faucet
Chicago Faucets

K-515 bathtub

1109.14BP drinking fountain
Haws Corp.

Water heater
Bradford White Corp.

Paints and Coatings Interior paint
Frazee Paint

Enviroseal 20 concrete sealer

Silicone building sealant
Dow Corning

Sikaflex-15 LM
Sika Corp.

HVAC Infinity 96 gas furnace
Carrier Corp.

Infinity 17 air conditioner
Carrier Corp.

Slot air diffuser

Lighting SN strip fluorescent lighting

LC downlight

FD16 downlight
Indy Lighting

ES-1 wall light
Louis Poulsen Lighting

Yosemite and Saratoga landscape lighting
B-K Lighting

Track lighting

LC Lens wallwasher

Reef 360 bollard

Fire Protection Royal Flush II fire protection
Tyco International

Horizontal sidewall sprinklers
Tyco International