ALTA AVE — Although Santa Monica is generally an environmentally friendly town, one couple and contractor are taking green living to a new level with what they say is the city’s first carbon-neutral, 100-percent waste diversion house.
As contractor Sean King, president of SMK Construction, transforms an old Alta Avenue bungalow into a modern new home, he has made sure that no materials end up in a landfill. The home is owned by journalist and former “The View” co-host Lisa Ling and her husband.
“[The owners] said they wanted to build a really green house,” King said of the LEED platinum certified home — the highest green building rating. “We decided we wanted to do 100 percent waste diversion because its never been done before.”
In order to achieve this goal, King enlisted the help of Habitat for Humanity and Waste Management California. All appliances were donated and the lumber from the home was used in building four houses in Mexico. King described the initial scene at the house as his own recycling yard. Leftover materials, including rocks, metal, bricks and plaster, were sorted and shipped off to recycling companies, but SMK workers hit a roadblock when it was time to discard the roof asphalt.
“We couldn’t find anywhere in California that would recycle it,” King said. Eventually, a Riverside company agreed to take the asphalt if it was brought to them. So, the workers packaged up the material and shipped it off to Riverside, where it was crushed and made into a parking lot.
Once all the old materials were gone, work on the new home could begin. Contractors worked out of a trailer partially constructed from the original roof’s lumber and adorned with the bungalow’s bright red door. The focus of the new home is operating at net zero carbon neutral, meaning the house returns all the energy from the energy grid that it takes. The finished house will have 60 solar panels for electricity and seven solar panels for hot water.
“I’ve always been an environmentalist,” King said. “I could see it was becoming the way of the future and I wanted to be ahead of the curve.”
The rest of the house is similarly constructed with a green mentality, from the concrete made with 50 percent recycled material to the blue wood, tinted by a non-toxic treatment meant to repel termites, mold and fire.
The house has no air conditioning. Instead, there is a large atrium at the front with skylights along the ceiling. When it gets hot, the warm air will rise, where it can then be released through the skylights in a passive cooling system. Additionally, King said with the high efficiency windows and tightly sealed construction, the internal temperature of the home self-maintains better than less sustainable houses.
While these measures are good for the environment, King said some caused a hassle with inspectors who are unfamiliar with the technology, leading to delays in getting permits and approvals. The element they had the most trouble getting approved was a underground fiberglass tank that collects rainwater from the roof and reuses it in an irrigation system.
“It was a learning experience for me,” King said. “[But] I want to get it out there that it can be done.”
The house, which has been under construction for more than a year, is expected to take a total of 18 to 20 months to complete. Although green houses take almost three times as long to make as normal homes and cost twice as much, King said the extra time and money are worth it. While the upfront cost is large, the payback over time from reduced energy costs is significant. Additionally, the materials are made to last longer, which King said doubles the life of the home.
King, who has been a contractor since 1994, said he became focused on green building and sustainability five years ago.
“I guess in a way I feel like I’m giving back to the environment and trying to make it a healthy place to live,” King said. “I really love what I’m doing and I really care about what I’m doing.”