Brandon Michael Arant

Working with eco-minded clients, a California architecture firm recently transformed a Long Beach bungalow into a sustainable showpiece. The clients, a family of four, had downsized from a larger home a few blocks away, but with two teenagers, a dog, and the need for a home office, space was tight in their 1,950-square-foot ranch.

Nevertheless, the clients and the architectural team from Venice, Calif.-based OPENHAUSdesign decided to keep the existing envelope intact. By eliminating the formal dining and living rooms, as well as an inefficient wood fireplace, they had enough room to expand the two-bedroom, 1.5-bath dwelling into four bedrooms and three bathrooms. The shared spaces are intimate, says architect Cynthia Kraus, but flow out onto two outdoor decks that enjoy the ocean breeze four blocks away from the waterfront.

Brandon Michael Arant

One of the main focuses of the project, which is certified to the Build It Green rating system, was to make common sense decisions that would allow the clients to achieve net zero energy consumption without breaking the bank, says Kraus. The project team set out to help the house use as little as energy as possible. Thanks to superior insulation and air sealing and ultra-efficient systems and appliances, the house is fully powered by its 16 roof-mounted solar panels.

Brandon Michael Arant

Air leaks were pinpointed by a blower test and taken care of. Because the house is so tightly insulated, the project team placed two make-up air filters on opposite sides of the house to bring in fresh air. On the south wall, Kraus designed a louvered eyebrow to protect two large windows. Only 11 inches deep, this move alone increases the energy efficiency of the cooling system by 2%.

The home is outfitted with durable materials such as cool roof shingles, low-maintenance cement board siding, and stucco. Well-sealed fiberglass windows replaced old leaky units. One large aluminum sliding door was placed on the east-facing backyard wall under a covered porch so that it never comes in contact with direct sunlight.

For the interior, renewable and recycled materials were selected when possible including Marmoleum flooring, bamboo cabinets, recycled glass tiles, and a reclaimed wood ceiling. The home would be shoeless to eliminate dragged in pollutants, so we designed a ‘mud closet’ for an uncluttered entry. We also designed an ‘electronics niche’ in the center of the home to reduce the electronic smog.

Brandon Michael Arant

Other sustainable features include:
--a high-efficiency 16 SEER conventional split system
--LED lighting
--skylights in the living room and Solatubes in each bathroom that limit lighting needs only between dusk and dawn
--a tankless water heater with efficient sizing and location of piping runs
--an on-demand recirculation pump at the kitchen sink that allows hot water to circulate to the faucet before it is turned on
--Energy Star appliances, including an induction stove