When hot green superstar Adrian Grenier created his exciting show Alter Eco with Planet Green and supermodel Angela Lindvall, he knew he wanted to set the first part of the show against a backdrop featuring his passion for green building. Grenier enlisted the help of Los Angeles-based contractor Richard Byrd of Byrd Development, who had recently plunged into the fast-paced world of sustainable design.
"This was our first green project, and we knocked it out in 14 weeks to stay in line with Alter Eco's shooting schedule," Byrd told TDG via phone. "It is the first custom-built LEED-certified platinum home in California."
Byrd explains that the goal for the house was a gorgeous 1920s-style Spanish manse that would blend in seamlessly with the LA aesthetic. Although the dwelling would boast many cutting-edge, deep green features, the look and feel would be contemporary, and anything but crunchy.
Byrd seems extremely jazzed about the whole experience, and says he plans on devoting his career exclusively to green building from here on out. "The first thing I learned was that if a company like mine -- who never built green before -- can get one done in 14 weeks, with [LEED] points to burn, it's not that hard," says Byrd. "It's something that should be mandated now. I've been building for 15 years, and I've seen building codes change with the dumbest of ordinances. We beat Title 24, the California energy standards, by 68%. That proves that minimum energy standards -- which most builders try to hit exactly -- could be so much more efficient."
In order to begin construction on the Alter Eco house at 4415 Dundee Drive in Los Feliz, Byrd and team had to first dismantle a decrepit house on the lot. "Normally we would just bulldoze it, but for this project we took one extra week and recycled the dilapidated house on site," says Byrd. "We had a 96.6% diversion rate, the highest Waste Management has ever seen."
Remarkably, all of the dream home's numerous green attributes added a mere 6% price premium to the total construction budget, including dismantling of the old building. "When you consider how much energy you'll save, any consumer would pay that to have that kind of return," says Byrd.
In fact, Byrd takes a broader view on this point. "In an economy like this people aren't going to be sold on doing the right thing, but this is the perfect time to reach people in the cost-effective savings way. People understand that if they're going to spend they'll spend it to save," he says. Byrd's company is even founding a new division that will go to people's homes and help them save energy, from changing light bulbs to bigger adjustments.
So what are the Alter Eco home's green features? It is expected to be 80% more energy efficient than conventional houses of similar size. This was accomplished with LED lighting from GreenTorch, some halogens and compact fluorescents (with motion sensors). High efficiency appliances were provided by Fagor, Lenox and Liebherr -- plus efficient pool equipment from Jandy. There are rooftop solar panels from Premier Power and two "solar trees" from Envision Solar, which combine for a total of 5.4 kw of clean renewable energy, making it a zero energy home.
Another impressive feature was the building's tightly sealed envelope, which Byrd likens to feeling like an igloo that is naturally 25% cooler than outdoor air, even with no cooling systems running. This magic is achieved with closed cell spray insulation by Bayer BaySystems. The product comes with a remarkable guarantee from the manufacturer that if heating or cooling costs exceed $51 a month, Bayer will pay homeowners the difference. According to Byrd, the insulation has r values (a measure of effectiveness) up to 60, whereas normal bat insulation is more like r 13.
The team also installed low-flow toilets, faucets and showerheads from Kohler and roof water collection tanks by Lumi Systems and High Desert Rain Catchment. There are tankless water heaters and a grey water recycling system that collects water from sinks and showers for irrigation. The home was also designed to have zero emissions of VOCs. Walls were coated with natural colored clay from American Clay, moldings were made from post-consumer recycled Styrofoam from Timbron, and paints with zero VOC from Eco-Trend. The VOC-free kitchen cabinets were made of wheat board by Bazzeo.
Going further, the antique roof tiles are reclaimed, as are the tubs, and the master shower has 86% recycled glass from Ann Saks. Ceramic tiles have recycled content and fireplace mantles and staircase elements are reclaimed by Exquisite Surfaces. Lumber was salvaged from the old house or certified by FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). Underfoot is gorgeous wood by Carlisle Flooring from a 200-year old recycled barn.
The serene exterior features native plant landscaping by Eco-Partners and porous pavement by Belgard. The appealing pool is saline, which is a less toxic option, though it still produces chlorine (learn about the exciting world of natural pools).
Byrd's hope is that "people will watch this show, see a house get dismantled, and in the final episode see us swimming in the pool throwing parties. Anyone who thought green is scary or too hard is going to see that, and also see that it doesn't have to take a certain look."
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