David Gottfried, chief executive officer of Oakland, Calif.-based Regenerative Ventures and founder of the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council and World Green Building Council, Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada, compares his newly remodeled 1915 home to a Tesla Roadster, the fully electric sports car that can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour (96.5 km/hour) in 3.9 seconds. “It’s smaller, super-efficient, has a tight environmental footprint and there’s almost no waste,” Gottfried explains. He and his wife, Sara Gottfried, M.D., medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine, Oakland, decided they no longer wanted to idle in a conventional home. Last November, they set a new track record with their green remodel, sailing through USGBC’s LEED for Homes Platinum certification as the highest-scoring home since the program’s launch in January 2008. The Gottfrieds’ home scored 106.5 points out of a possible 136. Platinum certification is given to homes that achieve a score of 80 or more. The house also is the second LEED Platinum renovation in California.


The Gottfrieds and their two young children formerly lived in a 2,600-square-foot (242-m2) house in Berkeley Hills, Calif., where there was no public transit and no amenities within walking distance. Interested in a more sustainable living space with easy access to parks, shops and schools, the family found a craftsman bungalow for public auction in a pedestrian-friendly area of Oakland, called Rockridge. But their perfect home was in not-so-perfect condition. The 1,500-square-foot (139-m2) house had its original 1915 furnace, leaky windows and no insulation. It needed new electric wiring, plumbing, and a new kitchen and bathrooms. The opportunity was ripe for a truly green renovation.


 To accommodate the family’s needs, the new layout involved tearing down hallway walls, removing the barrier between the kitchen and dining area, shifting the placement of a bedroom wall and adding a pull-down stair to the attic. The lowerlevel utility room became a family room, and adding French doors and a deck off the master bedroom helped open the space and bring in daylight. A second full bathroom wouldn’t fit, so the design included a half-bath with a toilet and sink inside the house and a screened outdoor shower on the reclaimed redwood deck. To reduce his daily transportation miles, David built a home office in his backyard from a free-standing 10- by 12-foot (3- by 3.7-m) steel structure that comes with its own solar panels. A seating circle of boulders—modeled after Stonehenge— in the yard is lined with gravel that captures water and allows it to replenish the water table. Set amid native landscaping, the circle provides a place for lectures and gathering space for public tours of the home. The Gottfrieds also plan to place a table and chairs in the center of the circle for outdoor meetings and family gatherings.


A solar-hot-water-heating system provides the home’s radiant heat and hot water. Three solar-hot-water panels on the roof send heated water to a tank, which delivers the water to eight European wall-hung radiators in the house, each in a separate zone. The tank features sophisticated electronics and software that maintain optimal efficiency and has a gas-boiler backup if necessary. Best of all, the system requires no ductwork and produces no noise. David put in a recirculating pump to provide instant hot water for showers from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. Eight solar photovoltaic panels on the home’s roof and eight more on top of David’s outdoor office generate approximately 2.7 peak kilowatts of electricity in optimal weather conditions. The family’s electricity use is minimal because all appliances, lighting and fans are Energy Star rated. The home’s building envelope was super-insulated with three types of insulation: cellulose for the walls, sprayfoam in the attic and batting for the crawl space. Low-E, double-pane windows replaced the existing leaky windows. The remodeled home is estimated to provide a 70 percent improvement in energy efficiency compared to its prior condition and 35 percent better than a new home. The Gottfrieds’ PV panels will send extra power to the electric grid, hopefully creating a zero-electricity home. To achieve zero energy, the Gottfrieds plan to tie a geothermal heat pump into the hot-water system to reduce the need for gas. If necessary, they also will buy certified carbon offsets.


Outside, nine slim water collectors that each hold 47 gallons (180 L) of water reduce the Gottfrieds’ water use by approximately 50 percent. Six collectors gather rainwater from the home’s roof and are connected to provide enough water to run one of the home’s dual-flush toilets for nine to 12 months. One collector amasses rainwater off the office for watering the family’s potted plants, and the two remaining tanks collect greywater from the tub, sinks and showers to use in the mostly native plant and tree garden. Permeable pavement covering the entry and driveway is composed of basalite and decomposed granite, preventing water runoff into the city’s storm system.


Although environmental considerations were paramount for David, Sara was determined to create a beautiful space for her family. “Your home should be a visual and sensual sanctuary that leaves stress completely behind. I was more interested in being true to that aesthetic than being a slave to green,” Sara says. David, however, remarks, “Green is truly beautiful.” Fortunately, many options on the market helped Sara design an interior that met both criteria. The holistic-medicine practitioner used 27 paint colors to create what she calls “adrenal calm,” and each radiator is powder-coated with a color that blends seamlessly into its specific room. The kitchen’s green-tea-colored countertops with wheat-hued flecks are formed from a highly recycled cementitious composite that includes natural minerals and wood pulp. In the bathroom and half bath, tiles are derived from a recycled composite blended with crushed abalone shells. Brightly colored recycled-glass tiles grace the two rooms, as well.

TRACTION IN TOUGH TIMES Although the economy and diminishing homeequity values would seem to dissuade substantial green remodels, the Gottfrieds forged ahead. For Sara, the health of their children and a commitment to altering climate change carried more weight than economic concerns, but she thinks this was a sound financial choice. “I’m happy we put our money into our home rather than the stock market. The truth is that green is hot and it’s going to stay that way. The remodel will prove to be a great return on investment,” Sara says. David describes their home’s resource-efficient qualities as a hedge against a bad economy. Not only will it save his family money on utilities, but the home also will have a much higher resale value. “It’s a finely tuned Tesla Roadster home, which is worth much more than a Winnebago, especially when fuel costs exceed $4 per gallon, which will happen again,” he says. “There’s nothing else like it—it’s a piece of green art. Who wouldn’t want to own one of these?”

KJ FIELDS writes about sustainability and architecture from Portland, Ore.


DEVELOPER / David Gottfried, Regenerative Ventures, Oakland, Calif., www.regenv.com

ARCHITECT / Daniel Smith Associates, Berkeley, Calif., www.dsaarch.com

CONTRACTOR / Canyon Construction, Moraga, Calif., www.canyonconstruction.com

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT / David Thorne Associates, Oakland, www.thornela.com

INTERIOR DESIGN / Sara Gottfried, M.D.

GREYWATER/RAINWATER DESIGN / Brent Buckrum, Hyphae Design Laboratory, Oakland, www.hyphae.net


• Solar Photovoltaics and Rear Office Solar Steel Structure (Lifepod) / ENVISION SOLAR, San Diego, www.envisionsolar.com

• Insulation / NCFI POLYURETHANES, Mount Airy, N.C., www.ncfi.com, and ICYNENE, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, www.icynene.com

• Greywater/Rainwater Storage / RAINWATER HOG, Corte Madera, Calif., rainwaterhog.com

• Paint / MYTHIC PAINT, Hattiesburg, Miss., www.mythicpaint.com • Windows and Lifepod French Door / MARVIN WINDOWS AND DOORS, Warroad, Minn., www.marvin.com, purchased from TRUITT & WHITE, Berkeley, Calif., www.truittandwhite.com

• Kitchen Cabinets / SILVERWALKER, Richmond, Calif., www.silverwalker.com

• Solar Thermal, Solar Hot Water Heater, Radiators / HEAT TRANSFER PRODUCTS, East Freetown, Mass., www.htproducts.com, and HYDRONIC SPECIAL TILES CO., Oakland, Calif., www.2hsc.com

• Hickory Floors / ECOTIMBER FLOORING, Richmond, www.ecotimber.com

• Glass Tiles / OCEANSIDE GLASSTILE, Carlsbad, Calif., www.glasstile.com

• Countertops/Bathroom Wainscot / SYNDECRETE, Santa Monica, Calif., www.syndecrete.com

• Lighting / MATTHEWS FAN CO./ WPT DESIGN, Libertyville, Ill., www.matthewsfanco.com, and METRO LIGHTING, Berkeley, www.metrolighting.com

• Porous Pavers / BASALITE CONCRETE PRODUCTS LLC, Dixon, Calif., www.basalite.com

• Appliances / BOSCH, Huntington Beach, Calif., www.boschappliances.com • Bathroom Fixtures / KOHLER, Kohler, Wis., www.kohler.com

• Toilets / CAROMA, Hillsboro, Ore., www.caromausa.com

• Furniture / HERMAN MILLER, Zeeland, Mich., www.hermanmiller.com, and THE WOODEN DUCK, Berkeley, www.thewoodenduck.com