Mother Earth Living

Editors' Choice: Ranch House Revival

This Oakland, California, green remodel optimizes the home's energy efficiency.
By Natural Home Staff
May/June 2009
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The large, open great room leads to an elevated deck above the home's 10,000-gallon rainwater storage tank.
Photography By Barbara Bourne

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When remodeling their classic ranch-style home outside Oakland, California, land conservation specialist Suzanne Jones and mathematician Rob Elia used their analytic minds to their advantage. With a computer program, they modeled a variety of energy-consuming systems and scenarios to optimize energy efficiency. The couple also hunted down salvaged materials for the countertops, flooring, chimney, bathroom tubs and tiles, and more; recycled nearly 100 percent of construction waste; purchased used furniture; and increased the home’s energy efficiency nine-fold by adding rigid insulation in the roof, recycled-newspaper insulation in the walls and operable double-pane windows.

“Anyone can implement green features, choosing what works within a budget. Anyone can recycle—and salvaged materials tend to be cheaper than new. It takes extra time to find and restore them, but it’s worth it.” —homeowner Suzanne Jones

Three things we love about this house:
1. During demolition, Suzanne went to great lengths to preserve building materials. The crew pulled nails from the framing lumber so they could reuse it in nonstructural ways, such as in a “crazy fence” built from redwood trim and door jambs.
2. Mostly powered by solar panels, the home’s total annual energy bill is less than $250. A spring supplies water. Passive solar design provides the majority of the heating; a fireplace insert and a small electric heater add warmth on the coldest days.
3. Two massive, fallen oak trees on the property found new life as part of the home’s structure. The oak trunks were used as support columns in the kitchen, living and dining rooms; the milled wood became the kitchen-island countertop and bar, breakfast nook and benches, stair treads, and even closet shelves.

Read the original Ranch House Revival article.

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