Rick Byrd is not your ordinary home builder. He's not even an ordinary custom home builder. Though he operates in California, he can not be found anywhere near the Inland Empire, nor Stockton nor Salinas. His canvas is the Hollywood Hills, with an occasional oceanfront place thrown in from time to time.

Byrd is a home builder to the stars, so to speak. His office is, aptly, in the Westfield Corp. building on the Avenue of the Stars in Century City, not far from the Fox movie lot. He is also something of an ecological zealot; his bona fides include a teaching gig at UCLA. He has recently combined those two pursuits: building the first house in California to earn Platinum LEED certification; launching a television show; and starting work on a computer model of a LEED-certifiable home, in conjunction with the University of Mississippi and UCLA, that could be built for $100 per square foot and would be suitable for the production home building environment.

“My mission is to make LEED Platinum the new standard,” he says.

The LEED for Homes program is a third-party certification process that awards points based on a home's performance in eight general categories. Points are awarded for performance within several specific categories under each general area. A Platinum designation requires between 90 and 128 points out of a possible maximum total of 129. Basic LEED certification starts at 45.

Byrd, in search of a company with which to partner, allows that it may seem incongruous for a production home builder to put scarce cash into R&D, or even a pilot project, at a time when housing starts are at an all time low. However, he argues, “Right now is the time to get the model really perfected.”

He points to the LEED Platinum home he completed earlier this year—in just 14 weeks, owing to the TV production schedule—as an example of how green building can pay off, even in this economy. The home, featured on the Planet Green cable network show “Alter Eco” in late fall, was entirely Byrd's project, but he took on a partner for TV purposes in the person of Adrian Grenier, his friend and star of HBO's “Entourage.”

The home, designed in a 1920s Spanish style, is located in Los Feliz, in the Hollywood Hills. Byrd dismantled, as opposed to demolished, an existing home on the site and used the reclaimed materials in the new home. It is insulated to the hilt; features a 5.4 KW solar power generation system; a combination of LED, Halogen, and CFL lighting; rain and grey water collection systems; and tankless hot water heaters, among numerous other green features.

SUSTAINABILITY FOR THE STARS: Rick Byrd goes LEED Platinum in the Hollywood Hills with this 1920s Spanish-style Los Feliz, Calif., home.

This is no production home, but he insists that the cost to build it was comparable to the average conventional home of similar size, minus, of course, the land cost. It is listed on the market for $3.5 million, but Byrd is in no hurry to sell it.

“I have been inundated with press,” he explains. Thousands have toured the home, and it is routinely rented out for receptions and green-themed events—and it will be the site of a couple Oscar parties to boot. At this rate, it could wind up making money as a green tourist attraction.

He says the manufacturer/partners that took part in the project, which include Kohler, DuPont, Lennox, Control 4, and Premier Power, among many others, are anxious to team up with any builder moving into the green space.

You can find more information at www.byrddevelopment.com. As you'll discover, Byrd has a flair for publicity.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.