West Hollywood's Green Corridor

May 01, 2008
May/June 2008
A version of this article appears in the May/June 2008 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
Click here to read more articles about Trends

Just a few hundred yards from some of the busiest streets in West Hollywood, Developer Monte Stettin sits in a home on Westbourne Drive, where silence reigns, despite the traffic.

“Thousands of people pass through this neighborhood every day, but you don’t hear any traffic noise inside this home,” Stettin says. “There is a tranquility that you don’t often find in urban areas.”

The Positive Energy Condominia are a series of green residences designed for single families who desire sustainable technology in a luxury setting. The homes range from 2,400 to 2,700 square feet, and are priced starting at $1,890,000.
Once certified, the Positive Energy Condominia will be the first LEED Gold-certified homes in West Hollywood, representing a shift in attitude and taste for the average Los Angeles home buyer. Stettin, founder of the eco-development firm Positive Energy Group, is pioneering a trend that is long overdue in congested cities—green and sustainable communities.

Green Inspiration

The Positive Energy Condominia represent a career change for Stettin, who spent years in publishing and television before pursuing architecture and development. Stettin’s original inspiration for sustainable housing came after meeting architect Frank Gehry and subsequently visiting the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

“I had an epiphany regarding the power of architecture as an engine of social and economic transformation and empowerment,” Stettin explains. “I began looking at construction in a new way, with an eye toward changing the construction paradigm from 20% materials and 80% labor to 20% labor and 80% materials.”

Stettin began planning a series of sustainable homes in California, with a vision of creating multiple green homes in the same neighborhood. After successfully completing a series of Positive Energy homes in Palm Springs, Stettin further improved upon his model and tackled one of the busiest corridors in Southern California. Carved out of a lush and fertile landscape, Los Angeles seemed the prime location for a green makeover.

“I could have pursued an area with more room and more resources, but I chose to make a statement,” Stettin says. “I wanted to prove that it was possible to change how consumers look at green homes, and to do so using limited space in a very busy city.”

The Features

The Positive Energy Condominia are a far cry from the overgrown bungalows that have occupied Westbourne Drive for decades. Natural light fills one of the two bedrooms; multifloor layouts and soaring ceilings create the illusion of outdoor space.

Unlike the homes in the rest of the neighborhood, these homes are equipped with solar-powered electrical systems, catalytic air scrubbers to improve air quality, xeriscape drought-resistant landscaping, Milgard UV insulated dual-glaze windows, and Rima stone permeable hardscape, to name just a few energy- and water-saving improvements. Buyers can rest easy knowing that the technology built into their home will last for approximately 100 years, and that most of the construction materials are fully recyclable.

Perhaps the homes’ most impressive features—and most important for the discriminating aesthetic tastes of home buyers in this area—are the luxury amenities that can be seen throughout, including Bosch appliances, bamboo flooring, and one-of-a-kind touches, such as the low-energy bathroom lighting fixtures designed by Stettin himself. The dual-flush toilets represent the synthesis of luxury appliances with practical, sustainable solutions.

High R-value insulation is just one of the features that make this home a shelter from the city soundscape, as well as energy efficient. The home looks like nothing else on the busy urban street; stands of bamboo have replaced ivy and oak, and the home’s simplicity is a welcome contrast to surrounding homes in need of a green face-lift.

Although it is one of the largest metropolitan areas on earth, Los Angeles trails other world cities in the number of sustainable buildings under construction. However, a recent influx of green-minded developers and consumers in need of sustainable property is beginning to change that.

According to an American Institute of Architects (AIA) poll, 90% of consumers polled would pay $5,000 more for a house that would “use less energy and protect the environment.” With an ideal, energy-efficient home in mind, consumers are moving beyond their misconception of green as a mere fad and accepting energy efficiency, combined with comfort and beauty, as a way of life.

“Buyers are looking for more than a place to live; they are looking for a community where their ideas about sustainability are held by those around them,” Stettin says. “By creating this neighborhood, we are realizing a movement toward green building in the Los Angeles area.”

David Sudeck, principal broker of BRIX Realty, Incorporated, and listing broker of the Positive Energy homes, believes that the emphasis on long-term savings convinces consumers to go green. “Because of the increased insulation and high-quality dual-glazed tinted windows, the Positive Energy homes should use about 40% less energy than your standard production or even custom home,” Sudeck explains. “If you factor in the solar power, then you will see significant long-term savings, depending on the behavior of the dweller.”

Stettin’s vision is ambitious, broad, and aimed at creating a “Green Corridor” in Southern California, where the eco-conscious can live in a community of like-minded people. This dream is quickly becoming a reality, as construction continues for additional Positive Energy homes in the neighborhood.

The homes also lie in an area of West Hollywood that includes efficient public transportation systems and upscale shopping that are walking and biking distance from the neighborhood. Excellent restaurants and coffee shops are also within reach. For buyers who wish to reduce their carbon footprint, they provide plenty of options.

As Los Angeles continues to expand in all directions, the need for an adequate public transportation system increases. Mass-transit-oriented neighborhoods grow, and so does the demand for public transportation that runs on clean energy. It is this demand from green communities that may finally offer a solution to freeway gridlock and improve public transportation in the city.

Alexandria Sivak is an account executive at Christine Anderson & Associates in Los Angeles, California.

For more information:

To learn more about Positive Energy’s Condos, go to  www.709westbourne.com.

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