Can This Home Be Greened? Bimini Terrace in LA Eco-Village

In the heart of Los Angeles, California is Lois Arkin’s Eco-Village.

| January/February 2004

  • Photos by Carol Venolia

  • Photos by Carol Venolia

Bimini Terrace is a two-story, eighty-year-old, eight-unit Mediterranean Revival building. It has a wood-frame structure, flat parapet roof, and stucco exterior finish. The building faces east, with a lawn in front and detached garages in back. The south side faces a wide, sunny alley, and the north side is close to an adjacent apartment building. 

The Bimini dream team

A crew of experts joined Lois and me at Bimini Terrace: Michael Cordell of Solar Electrical Systems; architect Ian McIlvaine; builder Larry Byrnes of Environmental Home Improvement; environmental consultant Mary Cordaro of H3Environmental; Bill Roley, director of the Permaculture Institute of Southern California; Audrey Hoodkiss of Ecology by Design; and Julia Russell of Eco-Home Network.

The big front lawn got our attention because grass requires a lot of water. Bill and I suggested keeping part of the lawn for children to play on (watered with reclaimed water) and using other portions for edible landscaping, xeriscaping, and wildlife habitat plants. The north end, which already has a vegetable garden near a fig tree, can become an outdoor living area. A patio there, shaded by a vine-covered trellis, would bring people out of their apartments.

Many Eco-Villagers are getting rid of their cars, so the parking area along the south side of the building can be replaced with a permeable surface that allows rainwater to recharge the aquifer. On the south wall of the building, I suggested installing trellis “eyebrows” above the windows to support shading vines. Lois and Ian imagined a promenade along the alley—fruit trees, tables and benches, a newsstand, fountains running reclaimed water, and a small stage for community performances.

Most of the roof downspouts drain to the building’s west side, making it easy to collect rainwater. With an average annual rainfall of fifteen inches and a 5,400-square-foot roof, this building can divert more than 50,000 gallons a year from the storm sewer. For rainwater storage, Ian proposed tearing up the rear driveway and installing an underground cistern. The broken-up concrete, rather than becoming a waste problem, can be used to create pathways, patios, and raised garden beds. Above the cistern would be pervious paving, gardens, and outdoor living space.

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