A Large Home Gets a Smaller Footprint

A luxury home approaches zero net energy use thanks to extensive efficiency improvements, renewable energy systems, and a “dashboard” for tracking energy and water consumption.

Frank Levinson wanted a dashboard that told him the energy-saving performance of his house in real time. After completing an extensive remodel of his Tiburon home, Mr. Levinson has just that – a resource monitoring system that displays information about his resource usage. These days, the resource monitor isn’t showing much waste, thanks to a major overhaul of the home’s energy-using systems and building envelope. The stunningly situated house, with sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay, was also updated with contemporary and green finishes, better lighting and changes to the floor plan to enhance flow and views.

Energy Use

Even after taking basic energy-saving steps like substantially improving insulation in walls, roof, and floor, adding double-paned windows, and using LED and fluorescent lighting, Mr. Levinson wanted to do more to ensure that most of his energy came from sustainable sources. So he had a photovoltaic system mounted on the garage roof. Gas furnaces were replaced with efficient dual-source (electric and gas) heat pumps and tightly sealed new ductwork. A solar hot water system serves the main house, the apartment and an endless pool, with a gas water heater providing supplemental domestic hot water during cloudy spells.

Mr. Levinson now uses 90 percent less gas than he previously used, and is making more electricity than he consumes.

Indoor Air Quality

Throughout the interior, Mahoney specified healthier finishes, including low-VOC paints and natural stucco. Other healthy home features include high efficiency HVAC filters, bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans vented to the outside to remove moisture and odors, and insulation that gives off few or no indoor air pollutants compared to conventional insulation.

Resource Conservation

Mr. Levinson prioritized durability in his choice of materials. His classic maple floors will stand the test of time, and have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to have come from sustainably managed forests. The new exterior cedar siding, as well as cabinets, new interior doors and the entry door are also FSC certified.

Water Conservation

Underneath the house, Mr. Levinson had two 7,500 gallon cisterns built to collect rainwater for landscape irrigation. To further reduce water use in and around his home, he selected dual-flush toilets, an on-demand recirculation pump that reduces the time it takes for water to reach fixtures, and drought-tolerant plants for the gardens.

Community & Living Green

The home has a number of design elements that accommodate diverse households, including a fully functional independent apartment and accessibility features such as a main floor with a zero-step entrance, doors and passageways with at least 32 inches of clear passage space, and bathrooms with blocking for grab bars. The home is within walking distance of public transit and neighborhood services.

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