You’d think building affordable de-tached housing in the heart of Hollywood would be enough to attract urban dwellers, but builder/developer Dan Thompson, CEO of MasterCraft Home Group, decided to go the extra (green) mile for his latest venture, The Gatsby.
The collection of 34, three-level detached brownstones, clustered on an infill lot a block off Sunset Boulevard, already benefit from the city’s Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance, a 2004 statute that allows multiple single-family homes or detached townhouses on a single lot to help boost density and affordability. At Gatsby, the prices for a trio of available plans ranging from 1,610 to 1,824 square feet are priced from the high $600s—a relative pittance for Tinseltown.
But Thompson pursued another agenda, as well, building the homes to meet Energy Star Qualified Home, California Green Builder (including the state’s Title 24 requirements), and Comfortwise program standards for energy efficiency and overall sustainability. “We were green before Gatsby,” says Thompson. “We thought this site would be well received if it was built green, but it’s basically no different than the way we build already.”
“Well received” might be an understatement given current housing market conditions. The Gatsby opened on June 1 and through August had sold six of the 12 units (and one model) released in its first phase, without discounting prices.
In addition to offering the anomaly of new detached housing in downtown Hollywood and providing a solid baseline of energy- and water-efficient features and per-unit monitoring capability, Thompson upped the ante even further by installing photovoltaic (PV) arrays into the roof tiles to offset grid-supplied electricity.
The default system operates independently of the utility to provide ample electricity during daylight hours (including during power outages), then switches automatically to grid power, when needed. “The use of solar puts this project above others that are green,” says Thompson, giving him even more of a competitive edge.
Thompson was able to afford the PV system thanks to a federal tax credit and because his company served as the installer, reducing his labor costs. “Without those cost savings, we would not have done it,” he says.
The Gatsby’s performance is matched by its good looks. The brownstones feature alley-accessed garages to keep the street-facing, Craftsman-style façades attractive, while residents also enjoy roof decks and three levels of in-town living. The detached homes are clustered in rows of three to six houses with only about 6 inches of air between units within each cluster, a space protected from water, debris, and other intrusions by an expandable vinyl skirt.
Meanwhile, the building envelope for each home features two-hour firewalls and a program that adheres to strict seismic standards, per the International Building Code adopted by the state—extra measures that also enhanced the thermal efficiency of the shells. “They’re built like battleships,” says Thompson.
Though most of the steps MasterCraft took to build green will result in lower utility and water bills for its homeowners, it is the in-house monitoring systems, says Thompson, which will likely enhance those efficiencies. “It’s not only a fun element, but it raises consciousness about how you use energy and water,” he says. “The ability to see how you’re doing in real time causes people to manage their use better.”
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.