By Christina B. Farnsworth. "At Santa Barbara, you can have it all and still do the right thing," the community's brochure reads. Pardee Homes launched its "Living-Smart" program, a green building development of environmentally sensitive and healthy homes at Santa Barbara, the first neighborhood built at Pacific Highlands Ranch in San Diego. The EPA, Sierra Club, and the local government are all giving rave reviews to Pardee's LivingSmart Homes program.
As is happening in other parts of the country, San Diego voters had some say in approving the master plan, a trend experts expect will continue. So Pardee made sure the Santa Barbara-inspired homes were in keeping with their precious San Diego environment.
Pacific Highlands Ranch includes a wildlife corridor. The site, once a farm, is being restored to its native San Diego heritage with plants such as California sagebrush, coastal sage, coast blue lilac, western sycamore, and monkey flower.
Pardee's LivingSmart program has three components: HealthSmart (healthy house features), EnergySmart (energy-efficient features), and EarthSmart (green building materials and techniques), explains Joyce Mason, vice president of marketing.
And that put all the pros involved to the test. Pardee spent two years in research to choose environmentally responsible materials that could be assembled in the right way to qualify for the EPA's Energy Star program.
All Pardee Homes are now Energy Star Homes. At Santa Barbara, it went even further with HealthSmart, Pardee's term for healthy homes.
Knowing that green comes in different shades of commitment, Pardee developed a matrix that compares sometimes conflicting information to come up with a standard it felt was comfortably green. Even the community's three furnished models are in keeping with LivingSmart criteria. In fact, one model features almost all of the earth, energy, and health features.
The LivingSmart commitment starts outside, where water-permeable surfaces are used to pave the driveways. When it rains, instead of water rushing into the streets and off the site, it percolates into the nearby ground. Houses are still stick frame, but the wood is certified green. Windows are "low-E squared," a type of glass that is energy efficient and screens out color-fading ultraviolet light.
Anderson. In the HealthSmart corner, an electronic air cleaner rids the home of 99.9 percent of particles 0.3 microns and larger, Mason says. A whole-house vacuum system adds to the healthy features.Normally, interior merchandisers don't have to worry about green or health aspects of housing, since the models are designed simply to woo buyers. But Color Design Art (CDA) made sure the homes' interiors were up to the LivingSmart environmental and health promises. The materials the Pacific Palisades firm chose are durable, healthy, and environmentally sound natural materials. For example, the firm carefully chose no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, says CDA president Don
Floors may sport carpet made from recycled pop bottles, especially in the bedrooms where barefoot comfort is key. Limestone and bamboo are among the environmentally healthy choices used in the rest of the house. Care was also taken to use solvent-free grouts and adhesives, including those for wallpaper and tile.
Lighting is either low-voltage halogen or energy-saving, color-correct fluorescent. Ninety percent of incandescent bulb output is heat rather than light, Mason says. And though fluorescents cost more, they last 10 times longer, paying for themselves in the long run.
Other options include photovoltaic panels mounted on attractive trellises. Although the systems won't run the entire house, they reduce utility use. Should the system produce more power than the home uses, reverse metering means the utility company pays the homeowner back for the power fed into its system.
Buyers, Mason estimates, can save as much as 78 percent of a typical electric bill by using the fluorescent lights, Energy Star building standards, and the photovoltaic panels. Other energy-conserving features include a tankless water heater.
Homes range from 3,396 to 3,894 square feet and start in the low $600,000 range.