Case Study: Ventura Beach House

The Owners approached us with a distinct objective. They aspired to create a craftsman style house with abundant natural light that would take advantage of the ocean views and the owner’s penchant for recreational activities and the desire to live an outdoor lifestyle. The caveat to this seemingly straightforward goal was that this project was to serve as a prototype for residential green design principals and materials.

One of the challenges with the owner’s request is that ornate wood laden buildings are inherently not green. A collaborative process of extensive product research and material experimentation was conducted between the Architect and Contractor to find green alternatives to the wood features common to the language of Craftsman Architecture. The solutions to these features had to be balanced with the fact that the materials used had to be suitable for use in the harsh coastal environment. Composite cement shingles were used in lieu of wood shingle siding. The shingles were purchased unfinished and were stained on site with colored concrete stain to provide a mottled and weathered patina appearance. This provided a durable, termite resistant, low maintenance, aesthetically appealing alternative to the wood shingles. The exterior architectural wood features were milled from old growth Alaskan Yellow Cedar that was reclaimed from an old mine. This wood is naturally termite and moisture resistant and has the natural beauty to offset the synthetic non-wood alternatives.

Other challenges included creating abundant outdoor living space in a dense beach lot and making natural lighting a feature in a building typology that is more typical of dark den-like spaces. Both of these challenges were accomplished by the unconventional placement of the residence on the site and a decision by the owner owner make the functional interior spaces as efficient as possible. The result is a 2022 square foot three story residence with a 1st floor building footprint of 887 square feet on a lot size of 11,710 square feet. Including the detached Garage, the lot has a density of less than 13%. The residence has tower-like proportions and is pushed to the backside of the lot away from the ocean. This creates generous private outdoor living space as a focal point to the the residence. These tower like proportions provide ocean views from every room with abundant natural light and cross ventilation. The outdoor features include a three story rock climbing wall (integrated into the craftsman vernacular), over 600 square feet of deck space, an exterior kitchenette, a native grass lawn, and the absence of paved surfaces for driveway and parking.

The “greenness” of each component was considered throughout the design process. Factors such as, recycled content (or recyclability), durability (moisture and termite resistance), made from a rapidly renewable resource, energy efficiency, water conservation, low maintenance, indoor air quality, and craftsman aesthetics were all considered during product and material selection. Insulated Concrete Formwork (ICF’s) made from recycled wood waste product were used for the exterior walls. The thermal mass and built-in insulation of these wall forms provide excellent thermal and acoustical performance, and increase the performance of the hydronic radiant heating system. The ICF’s are also, termite and moisture resistant which was a significant issue of concern for the Client. The use of termite resistant materials eliminates the need for toxic insecticides in the soil and significantly prolongs the lifespan of the building. Another benefit of these forms is that the exterior wall cladding can be applied directly to the surface of the blocks, reducing material usage by eliminating the need for additional layers of plywood sheathing.

We were fortunate to be involved with such an innovative project that pushed the definition of the word “green” during a time that LEED for homes was still a concept. Ultimately, it was the owners commitment, patience, and willingness to be at the forefront of defining what is “green” that resulted in a model green home that will serve as an example of sustainability for years to come.

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