David and Sara's Deep Green Dream Home

David and Sara's Deep Green Dream Home

Name: David & Sara Gottfried
Location: Oakland, California
Size: 1,400 square feet
Years lived in: 2.5
Who else lives here: 2 kids, ages 6 and 11, both girls

When David and Sara Gottfried renovated their 1915 Craftsman bungalow three years ago, they became the owners of one of the greenest homes in America. Deemed LEED Platinum by the US Green Building Council, the modest but beautiful bungalow is a green dream inside and out.

As founder of the US and World Green Building Council, and creator of the LEED green building rating system, it's no wonder David Gottfried lives in a home that barely impacts the Earth. On the surface, the house looks much like the other well-kept Craftsman homes in Oakland's Rockridge district, a highly walkable neighborhood with coffee shops and European-style markets. But take a closer look at those lovely wooden steps leading up to the front door. They're constructed of redwood salvaged from the Old Sacramento Bridge. And that shimmering tile in the bathroom? It's all recycled glass. But this house's eco credentials go beyond aesthetics. Cracks and gaps from nearly a century of life have all been fully sealed, drafty windows all replaced, solar panels set up on the rooftops, and grey water systems installed.

David, Sara, and their two daughters moved from a much larger house in the nearby Berkeley Hills. To make their new home feel bigger, they enlisted the help of DSA Architects, a Berkeley firm that specializes in sustainable, green, and net-zero energy architecture, knocked down some walls, and opened up a cozy, stylish space where a family of four can flourish.

Furnished with timeless design classics that compliment the original Craftsman details, the warm interior opens out onto a welcoming oasis out back. David's "LifePod" office is surrounded by native California flora, the family's vegetable garden, and various spaces designed for gathering together and enjoying the fresh California air.

"This was a 30-year journey that began in solar engineering classes at Stanford," David said. "I've always wanted a deep green remodel, on steroids."

Re-Nest Survey:

Our style: Eco-Craftsman that's modern yet honors the Craftsman story. Crazy, deep green. We feel it is most green to rehab rather than to build new.

Inspiration: We love the sweet little bungalows of the Rockridge District, which is like a European hamlet – you can walk to get everything from organic produce to fine wine to locally-roasted Blue Bottle coffee to grass-fed beef. Our local coffeehouse, Cole Coffee, has people hanging out, socializing and connecting with new folks all hours of the day. We've met many of our friends there. We can retrofit the house well into our old age so why not go crazy with the green? Small is green.

Favorite Element: David - LifePod. As an engineer, the radiant solar hot water heating. Silent, incredibly efficient, extremely elegant.

Sara – I love the solar hot water radiators too but mostly because they're so sculptural. We custom powder-coated each one to match our zero-VOC paint. I'd have to say the large lot, veggie and natural dye garden is my fave element.

Biggest Challenge: David – Cost! Not cost of green, but cost of custom renovation.

Sara – Getting my husband to sleep during the design and renovation phase. He is a green pioneer, and this project was a long-held dream for him. He'd stay up way past bedtime reviewing every LEED credit for how to take the house to the next level.

What Friends Say: "Pretty colors, so soothing." "Can't believe your PG&E bill!" "Love the Craftsman detail" (David's mom repeated this over and over when she thought we were making a huge mistake and she was trying to find something positive to say – see David's second book on the house, Greening My Life).

Proudest DIY: Planting the garden, which we did as a family. There's been a lot of trial and error, emphasis on the error. We also love our Rain Hogs. We got them used from a sustainable food conference in San Francisco. I love that they were a little banged up and had a productive life before we got them, rather than shiny and off-gassing new from Design Within Reach.

Biggest Indulgence: David – Connecting the grey water/rainwater to the toilets? Or the reclaimed redwood from the Old Sacramento Bridge that we turned into our front stairs at 3X the cost?

Sara – 32 paint colors throughout the house? My husband budgeted for 5 and thought he was being generous.

Best Advice: David - Everyone can go green. The key is to start.

Sara – You don't have to sacrifice aesthetics for green. Nowadays, you can have green and gorgeous.

Green Elements/Initiatives: We achieved LEED-Platinum at the highest level for a remodel – to the best of our knowledge, there is no higher-rated remodel in the country. Our home was called, "The greenest little home in America."

  • The home is close to hundreds of shops, parks, schools, and public transportation, including BART (metro). Walkability score 92.

  • The renovation reused a 93-year-old existing home and site.

  • Cellulose wall insulation and closed-cell foam were added to the attic rafters, and batt insulation to the crawl space.

  • New Marvin low-E double pane windows throughout the house.

  • New locally built "green" cabinets by Silverwalker.

  • All the new Bosch kitchen appliances and washer/dryer are Energy Star certified, low water, and quiet!

  • New water-efficient cast iron recycled steel bathroom sinks and tub by Kohler.

  • Dual-flush toilets by Caroma (1.28 and 0.8 gallons per flush) installed in the bathrooms.

  • Efficient showerheads and faucet aerators by Bricor and Kohler.

  • Efficient Energy Star certified lighting and fans and some LED.

  • FSC-certified wood by Eco-Timber used for construction framing, plywood, and replacement floors.

  • The kitchen and bathrooms features high recycled content tile by Oceanside & Syndecrete, and countertops by Syndecrete.

  • Solar hot water panels by HSC.

  • Sixteen solar photovoltaics by Envison Solar/Suntech provide 2.72 kW of power.

  • Solar hot water heater from Phoenix System by HSC provides radiant heating and hot water.

  • Green paint by Mythic features no VOCs, and exceeds GS-11 Green Seal standard.

  • A new fireplace glass enclosure and damper were installed.

  • Termite damage mitigation and prevention methods and bait traps were added.

  • The LifePod home office, located in the rear yard, features 8 solar PV panels and passive solar design.

  • Greywater is captured for use in the garden.

  • Rainwater is captured for use in the garden and one toilet.

  • The garden is planted with native, drought tolerant plants, and features graywater drip irrigation

  • A vegetable garden was also planted.

  • The site features Basalite permeable pavement and decomposed granite (DG).

  • Reclaimed wood was used in the entry stairs, framing, and deck.

  • Old doors and hardware were used.

  • Energy modeling and infiltration performance testing and tightening (blower door) was performed.

  • The home received LEED for Homes Platinum Rating on November 7, 2008 with a score of 106.5 points.

  • The home was the first LEED Platinum home in Northern California, and formerly the highest rated in the country.

  • PG&E Climate Smart Program provides offsets for the home.

  • Build it Green: Green Point Rated renovation certification - 179 points - 51 points higher than previous record


Appliances: Bosch Energy Star.

Hardware: Mostly re-used from original 1915 Craftsman kit. Some kitchen hardware from recycled glass from Eco-Home Improvement in Berkeley.

Furniture: The Wooden Duck (reclaimed wood bed, dining room table & chairs,), Herman Miller.

Accessories: I have a weakness for Mary Mulcahy Designs.

Lighting: My fave piece is in our entryway and it's a cool structure made from recycled cans gathered at a girl scout camp and made by an artist into a pendant.

Rugs and Carpets: Dining room carpet = carpet tile from Interface. I think you can eat it.

Tiles and Stone: All recycled glass in the bathrooms, and Syndacrete counters in kitchen.

Window Treatments: Hunter Douglas super-energy efficient.

Beds: Reclaimed wood made by local store, The Wooden Duck. Bedding by Coyuchi outlet (Sara only wears organic clothing and bedding).

Artwork: Mostly trade and from cousin who is a documentary photographer, Ken Light.

Paint: Mythic zero-VOC.

Flooring: FSC hickory in the mudroom and family room.

Sara is an integrative gynecolgist & yoga teacher and is wearing only organic clothing for one year to see if she can measurably reduce her toxic load.

David is the founder of the US Green Building Organization and World GBC. He'd like for folks to read his fantastic second book, Greening My Life.

(Thanks, David and Sara!)

Interested in sharing your home with Re-Nest? Contact our editors through our Green Tour Submission Form.

(Images: Celeste Sunderland)

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