Neighbors battle to create greenest home

June 23, 2009 7:13:32 PM PDT
Only in the Bay Area would two homeowners be doing battle for the title of "Greenest home in America." And, as it turns out, the two homeowners are practically neighbors.

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One home is a recently remodeled 1,500-square foot bungalow built in 1915. The other is a new 4,700-square foot modern design with its own name, the "Margarido House." These two Oakland homes are among the greenest houses in the country.

The hybrids parked out front are a hint. But, the proof hangs on the entry way wall like a prized family heirloom for everyone to see. So, with all the LED lights, compost bins and solar panels, which one is the greenest of them all?

"We were the first Platnum home in Northern California and Mike was the second one," David Gottfried told ABC7.

Platnum is the greenest you can get in green construction. There are only 369 Platnum-certified homes in the country. Almost one-third of them are located in California. These two Oakland houses are so green they have scored points beyond the highest ranking possible.

This battle is all being waged in the same Oakland neighborhood by two homeowners who live about a mile away from each other. But, there can only be one winner.

David Gottfried is the founder of the U.S. Green Building Council, which developed the scoring system.

"We received a 106.5 points. I think the Margarido home is 107. So, he's a half a point higher," he explained.

Gottfried literally wrote the book on green living. And, that book sits on Mike McDonald's nightstand right next to the organic linens on his bed.

"I think the Gottfried house is a much better example of what's possible for the country and greening homes in general," McDonald said.

For McDonald, a developer by profession, the project of building his own home did not start out as a green obsession. But, it quickly turned into one.

"As we got into it it was like, 'We might be silver. We might be gold. Oh my God we could be Platnum," he recalled.

The tiles on his walls are made from old kiln trays that would have gone into landfills. The house has so many windows lights are only turned on after sundown. The roof has 12 inches of soil so thick he can plant trees on it.

Then, there is the driveway.

It is built over a pair of 2,000-gallon tanks that collect rain water which is used to irrigate the plants; make that drought-resistant, native plants.

"What we've done is essentially captured water that would have gone into the street, picked up all the oils and pollutants, and gone to the Bay," McDonald explained.

Gottfried checks his meter daily, sometimes hourly to make sure no energy goes to waste.

"It's not zero. It's very depressing," he said during a tour of the home.

The radiators around the house are solar-powered. The countertops are made of recycled materials. The attic is packed with insulation keeping this once-creaky old house airtight. Storage tanks outside capture rainwater and in an elaborate plumbing system connect to the toilet, showers and sinks, letting no clean tap water go to waste.

But, even in all his eco-consciousness Gottfried still is not satisfied.

"I'm not at net zero for electricity so I can't sleep," he said. "So, I already have a plan to add more solar panels."

And, that will mean more points.

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