Jewel Box: A Venice Beach Home Combines Modern Design and Sustainability

Architect Andrew Mangan built this brightly colored, ultramodern home with clever green features.

| July/August 2009

Architect Andrew Mangan knows one way to spread the word about sustainable design: Build a can’t-miss-it, Technicolor, ultramodern home just blocks from the Pacific Ocean in Venice Beach, California. Built on a small lot, the colorful jewel box is a model of smart, green thinking.

Mangan designed the home’s colorful façade to attract attention. “Once it caught their eye, I knew people would want to learn more about it,” he says. “This opens up doors to learning more about its green characteristics.”

And green features abound. The 2,400-square-foot home was built using 24-inch-on-center, or “advanced” construction, which means wall studs and joists were placed 24 inches apart rather than the traditional 16 inches apart used in conventional construction, decreasing lumber use by about a third. The home’s design and layout also conserve energy and resources. The U-shaped courtyard plan is oriented so most of the home’s windows are north-facing to block the hot southern California sun, and roof overhangs also mitigate heat. To take advantage of sunlight, ocean breezes and views, the home’s common spaces, including the living room and kitchen, are on the second floor; bedrooms are on the ground level. Cross-ventilation and passive cooling towers negate the need for air conditioning. The kitchen and entry towers incorporate large windows that, when open, pull warm air out and circulate air through the home.

Smart, savvy design

On the roof, a 1-kilowatt array of photovoltaic solar panels generates 30 percent of the home’s electricity; the roof was designed to easily accommodate up to two more arrays, which would provide nearly 100 percent of the home’s electricity. The landscaping—a minimalist hardscape of decomposed granite and pea gravel groundcover, along with drought-tolerant native grasses and plants—also saves resources.

Mangan estimates that the home’s green features added about $20 per square foot to its cost. Interior concrete flooring containing 20 percent fly ash, a coal byproduct, cost about the same as conventional concrete. Installing air conditioning would have cost several thousand dollars, but cooling towers over the kitchen and entry accomplish the same effect for a fraction of the price. Installing the framing at 24 inches on-center saved money as well as lumber, and the cost difference for both formaldehyde-free insulation and low-VOC paint was negligible. Energy Star appliances cost about the same as conventional ones, and some utilities offer rebates for installing them. “We received a 60 percent rebate for the solar array,” Mangan says. He says implementing these features is “just smart design.”

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