Greenest house in America (so far)

20 11 2008

housefrontw180h135As the LEED for Homes Advocate for the USGBC-New York Chapter, I receive a LOT of mail and press releases about LEED certified projects.

This one is particularly exciting – The Gottfried Home, which received the highest score ever received since LEED for Homes launched early this year.

I’m not particularly excited by the high score (106.5 points of 136 possible points – Platinum threshold is 80 points).  What excites me is that this is an example of a very small existing home that was fully renovated unlike the vast majority of LEED for Homes projects which are new buildings and the few that aim to be green McMansions by attaining LEED for Homes certification.

From the press release:

The 1,500-square-foot home in the Oakland neighborhood of Rockridge is half as large as the Gottfrieds’ previous home in the Berkeley Hills. Gottfried specifically wanted the home to be small to reduce the home’s footprint and show that a family of four can live happily in a smaller space, as humans historically have.

“We hoped to showcase how to green an old historic home and still achieve LEED Platinum, as well as downsize 50% for a family of four,” David Gottfried said.

The restored 1915 craftsman bungalow further reduces its impact on the environment because, as a restoration, it enables reuse of many materials and doesn’t eliminate open space on a previously home-free site.

Gottfried works in a regenerative “Lifepod” in the back yard of the home, cutting out the air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with a commute to the office. It is built in an extremely walkable neighborhood, with most amenities available to the family without their needing to drive. The home is designed to be a net-zero energy home, meaning that with its solar photovoltaic power generation and its solar- and hydronic-powered water-heating systems, the home strives to produce all the energy it needs to operate without drawing from the power grid.

Rainwater is captured and diverted for use in one of the home’s toilets, reducing reliance on potable water supplies. “Graywater” – used water from the home’s two showers, bathtub and two sinks – is used to water the landscaping. And the family plans to grow its own vegetables.

And the home manages to conserve resources without scrimping on style. Some 27 colors make up the décor, including beautiful recycled abalone tile. The Gottfrieds call it “eco-bling”.  And the renovation process engaged the neighborhood, teaching the community about the ways a green home can be beautiful and livable.

The renovation was funded in part by a green construction loan from New Resource Bank and an interest rate break for its use of solar power and LEED.

Learn more about the Gottfrieds’ home at Also, visit the popular environmental Web site Planet Green, at, to view David Gottfried’s video blog documenting the renovation process and the home’s green features.

• The cost and slow pace of custom construction.
• Finishing and getting subcontractors out of the house.
• Small is noisy – need to work more on acoustics with young kids.
• Getting graywater permitted.

About LEED®
The LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification system is a feature-oriented certification program that awards buildings points for satisfying specified green building criteria.  The six major environmental categories of review include: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality and Innovation and Design.  Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels of LEED green building certification are awarded based on the total number of points earned within each LEED category.  LEED can be applied to all building types including new construction, commercial interiors, core & shell developments, existing buildings, homes, neighborhood developments, schools and retail facilities.  LEED for Healthcare is currently under development and is expected to be released in early 2008.

Also visit, to view David Gottfried’s video blog.

LOCATION: Oakland, Calif.
SIZE: 1,440 square feet
STYLE: Craftsman bungalow

LEED Points
• Innovation & Design: 8 of 11 possible
• Locations & Linkages: 10 of 10 possible
• Sustainable Sites: 19 of 22 possible
• Water Efficiency: 13 of 15 possible
• Energy & Atmosphere: 31 of 38 possible
• Materials & Resources: 12.5 of 16 possible
• Indoor Environmental Quality: 11 of 21 possible
• Awareness & Education: 2 of 3 possible
• Total: 106.5 of 136 possible (Platinum threshold: 80 points)

Some of the Home’s Green Features
• Small physical footprint – less than 1,500 square feet for a family of four.
• Reuse and restoration – giving 1915 craftsman bungalow new life.
• Incredibly walkable neighborhood, with everything just outside doorstep.
• David Gottfried works in a regenerative “Lifepod” (120-square-foot steel building with 50% flyash floor) in the back yard – no commute.
• A net-zero-energy goal, using solar photovoltaic power generation, solar-heated water and hydronic water heating; off-sets if necessary.
• All landscape water from graywater.
• Rainwater capture for toilet use and vegetable garden.
• “Eco-bling” beauty throughout – 27 colors, beautiful abalone recycled tile.
• Incredible interest and support of neighbors.




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