There are many ways to build an eco-friendly house, but business partners Mike Kerwin and Mason Austin at San Francisco–based Kerwin Rockwell Green Construction pursue a strategy so simple that it makes you wonder why more builders don’t use it. “We approach every project with the objective to reclaim, recycle, or repurpose building materials,” the company’s website says.
Kerwin used that approach a few years ago to great success on an infill spec house in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. Working under the name Lorax Development, Kerwin built what is often called the greenest house in San Francisco. Designed by John Maniscalco Architecture, the house is a warm contemporary confection with a long list of green features, but Kerwin says the reuse and recycling principles were instrumental in the success of the project.
The exterior siding is made from concrete and fly ash that normally end up in a landfill, the floors are century-old reclaimed railroad ties from Southeast Asia, the countertops are made from recycled paper, the insulation is made from recycled blue denim, and the house features the city’s very first residential rainwater collection system that is used to flush toilets, clean laundry, and wash the car.
Kerwin turned to Wonderwater to design, create, and install a system that collects rainwater and stores it in tanks under the deck. A solar-powered filter cleans the non-potable water and a pump sends it back into the home to flush toilets, wash clothes, and provide water for washing cars and other landscaping needs. Wonderwater. 530-925-2586. www.wonderwater.net.
Instead of using wood from virgin trees, the builder sourced salvaged wood from railroad ties in Southeast Asia. “This 100-year-old wood was destined for the burn piles,” Kerwin says. “[I]nstead, it has yielded some beautiful reclaimed wood floors.” The lumber company provides prefinished and raw lumber, including standard domestic species as well as products from all over the world. The builder mixed its own putty to fill some of the irregularities and holes in the wood. Terra Mai. 800-220-9062. www.terramai.com.
Recycled Denim Insulation
The builders passed on fiberglass insulation and chose UltraTouch denim instead. Made from natural fibers that contain up to 90 percent post-consumer content, the product provides for effective sound absorption and high thermal performance. It does not itch so it’s very user-friendly and easy to install. The manufacturer says the product contains no volatile organic compounds. Bonded Logic. 480-812-9114. www.bondedlogic.com.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.