We’ve heard the term “sustainable” but what does it mean when it comes to architecture? A green building — or sustainable building — is an energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly residential or commercial space.

Sustainable architecture is important because it serves as the future of community growth and ensures the well-being of our environment as well.

From Discovery.com, here are my picks for three of California’s coolest and most sustainable buildings. Each of these buildings use creative ways to preserve precious resources like water and energy by resolving issues surrounding heating, cooling, water runoff and construction waste.

While we already know that going green benefits the environment, it will also benefit your wallet as well. To learn more on renovating your dwelling or office space into a green, sustainable building, find us on the web at AlcornBenton.com or give us a call at 858.459.0805

Santa Monica Z6 House


#1 Santa Monica, California: The Z6 House

What’s so cool about the Z6 house in Santa Monica? It’s truly a green machine with some of the most innovative — and convenient — sustainable designs. It’s name is based on its philosophy of attaining zero levels of waste, energy, carbon, emissions, water, and ignorance. Builders used every possible sustainable method known to create a fully-functioning, wasteless home — with a lot of cool style as well. Producing only 1/10 of the waste typically introduced with construction, this home was assembled in a factory, making it a literally portable dwelling should the owners wish to ultimately move. It uses PV panels to fuel 60 to 70 percent of the home’s energy consumption. It’s solar water heater aslo reduces energy use and its radiant floor heating based on solar power is not only a luxury, but a great way to keep a home green. The Z6 also features a special glazing on the outside of the home that takes advantage of the winter sun to heat the home in winter. Gray water irrigates the plants on the ground and low-flow faucets and showerheads help cut down on water use. Using recycled materials, the Z6 doesn’t fail to impress in terms of sustainability.

Venice Solar Umbrella Home


#2 Venice, California: Solar Umbrella House

Although the initial structure of this post-modern brilliance dates back to the 1920s, its recent green renovations make it a wonderful addition to the most sustainable dwellings in the Golden State. In 2005, its owners doubled the house in size, making it green in the process. Renovations focused on adding a “solar umbrella” of PV panels which fuels 95 percent of the home’s energy. Umbrellas and cross-ventilation shade and cool the home, making it easier to use less energy in the summer months. It uses sunlight intelligently to also warm the home in the winter — this is mainly due to large window spaces and the position of the home. It’s also efficient at preventing water runoff through a water retention system that collects 80 percent of it before if ever hits the ground. The Solar Umbrella House is also special because its renovations were competed with recycled materials, making it a cool space when it comes to green design.

Lake View Terrace Library


#3 Lakeview Terrace, California: Lake View Terrace Library
Green construction isn’t limited to residential property. In fact, some of the most notable sustainable spaces are office buildings and commercial space. The Lake View Terrace Library is a fine example of sustainability with its PV array that fuels 15 percent of its energy use and — most notably — it’s use of wind energy. This special building uses wind turbines to fuel its day-to-day operations — that’s not only green but also a very cool take on sustainability. Making best use of the building’s position, the Lake View Terrace Library also takes advantage of its east-west axis, allowing a flood of light into the building which allows minimal dependence on artificial light. To save water, its landscaping is comprised of mainly drought-tolerant plants and a design that reduces water runoff by 25 percent. Aerated faucets also reduce water use. During its construction, builders also managed to reduce waster by 75 percent compared with traditional construction.

by Paul Benton, Architect + Enginner

This article originally appeared in the La Jolla Light in June, 2013.