RVOC March 2009 : Page 115

Family Dynamic! A SoCal architect breaks new eco ground by humanizing sustainability | By AndrewMyers | Photography by Ethan Pines and Dave Harrison | Kevin deFreitas is neither a tree-hugging hippie nor one of those Richie Rich do-gooders eco- evangelizing from a 20,000-square-foot house that barely qualifi es as “green.”What deFreitas is, he admits, is an architect and builder with a touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder.He and wifeKara are also the owners of a 3,800-square- foot San Diego stunner that’s alternately known as Casa Futura, Casa Familia or Casa Control 4, depending on who’s doing the talking. “We wanted a modern design, avoiding the alternative, homemade or hippie aesthetic associated with über-sustainable homes,” says deFreitas. T e result? He designed America’s fi rst LEEDGold certifi ed home. (LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.” Despite rumors to the contrary, certification is not doled out by a group of granola-eaters at Zinc Café. It’s an offi cial designation of theU.S. Green BuildingCouncil based inWashington, D.C.) DeFreitas’ environmentally conscious learning curve began in 2002 in Downtown San Diego. For the Rowhomes on F, a series of 17 freestanding townhouses, he utilized glass, aluminum, ship-lappedsidingandtilt-upconcrete (a wood alternative normally used in commercial construction, which reduces sound transmission and is impervious to water and termites). Purely by happenstance, the Rowhomes turned out to be 38 percent more energy- effi cient than the norm, a fi gure that turned into a career-changing moment for deFreitas. “I thought, ‘If we did this well without even trying, let’s see what we could really do,’” he explains. “As an architect, one really does want to be an example, and the American Institute of Architects stresses community involvement and leading the proverbial charge.” His stage was a project literally close to home: a 9,700-square-foot lot in Point Loma, a site with canyon and inland views, as well as a far less comely 1,500-square-foot, uninsulated single-level house from1950. Its one redeeming quality was its provenance: William Wheeler was the architect. “We bought that cold, single- bathroom house in 2000 and lived in it for fi ve years,” laughs deFreitas. T at luxury of time and locale gave him intimate knowledge of the site, occasion to assess his young family’s needs and wants, and to incorporate these variables into a refi ned process that started in 2003 and took approximately two years, followed by 22 months of actual construction. “Everything began with and centers around the courtyard,” says deFreitas, who worked with landscape architect and longtime collaborator Leslie Ryan. Together they selected “plants at our latitude from around the world, all full of color, texture and interest”—such as Mexican feather grass, kangaroo paws, New Zealand fl ax, agave attenuata, agaveAmericana, pala verde, black bamboo, horsetail, blue chalk sticks, black aeoniumand tree aloe. As of today, all are self-suffi cient in terms of water. “We basically turned off the irrigation PARTY OF SIX “My wife and I wanted a very ‘green’ home that would be kid-friendly,” says architect Kevin deFreitas. Yet he also wanted to achieve a “warmth not usually associated with big-M modern architecture.” system after a year and a half, after everything was established,” says deFreitas, citing a Metropolitan Water District report that 60 to 70 percent of potable water is used not for drinking or washing, but for irrigation. “T ere’s also very little yard waste,” he adds. “Everything is slow growing; in two years I’ve probably only used 10 trash bags.” Especially after the 800-square-foot area of green lawn with a synthetic turf eliminated the fertilizer and nixed the pesticides while actually looking March 2009 | | 115

Family Dynamic!

Kevin deFreitas is neither a tree-hugging hippie nor one of those Richie Rich do-gooders ecoevangelizing from a 20,000-square-foot house that barely qualifi es as “green.” What deFreitas is, he admits, is an architect and builder with a touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder. He and wife Kara are also the owners of a 3,800-squarefoot San Diego stunner that’s alternately known as Casa Futura, Casa Familia or Casa Control 4, depending on who’s doing the talking.<br /> <br /> “We wanted a modern design, avoiding the alternative, homemade or hippie aesthetic associated with über-sustainable homes,” says deFreitas. e result? He designed America’s fi rst LEED Gold certifi ed home. (LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.” Despite rumors to the contrary, certifi cation is not doled out by a group of granola-eaters at Zinc Café. It’s an offi cial designation of the U.S. Green Building Council based in Washington, D.C.) DeFreitas’ environmentally conscious learning curve began in 2002 in Downtown San Diego. For the Rowhomes on F, a series of 17 freestanding townhouses, he utilized glass, aluminum, ship-lapped siding and tilt-up concrete (a wood alternative normally used in commercial construction, which reduces sound transmission and is impervious to water and termites).<br /> <br /> Purely by happenstance, the Rowhomes turned out to be 38 percent more energyeffi cient than the norm, a fi gure that turned into a career-changing moment for deFreitas.<br /> <br /> “I thought, ‘If we did this well without even trying, let’s see what we could really do,’” he explains. “As an architect, one really does want to be an example, and the American Institute of Architects stresses community involvement and leading the proverbial charge.” His stage was a project literally close to home: a 9,700-square-foot lot in Point Loma, a site with canyon and inland views, as well as a far less comely 1,500-square-foot, uninsulated single-level house from 1950. Its one redeeming quality was its provenance: William Wheeler was the architect. “We bought that cold, singlebathroom house in 2000 and lived in it for fi ve years,” laughs deFreitas. at luxury of time and locale gave him intimate knowledge of the site, occasion to assess his young family’s needs and wants, and to incorporate these variables into a refi ned process that started in 2003 and took approximately two years, followed by 22 months of actual construction.<br /> <br /> “Everything began with and centers around the courtyard,” says deFreitas, who worked with landscape architect and longtime collaborator Leslie Ryan. Together they selected “plants at our latitude from around the world, all full of color, texture and interest”—such as Mexican feather grass, kangaroo paws, New Zealand fl ax, agave attenuata, agave Americana, pala verde, black bamboo, horsetail, blue chalk sticks, black aeonium and tree aloe. As of today, all are self-suffi cient in terms of water.<br /> <br /> “We basically turned off the irrigation system after a year and a half, after everything was established,” says deFreitas, citing a Metropolitan Water District report that 60 to 70 percent of potable water is used not for drinking or washing, but for irrigation.<br /> <br /> “ ere’s also very little yard waste,” he adds.<br /> <br /> “Everything is slow growing; in two years I’ve probably only used 10 trash bags.” Especially after the 800-square-foot area of green lawn with a synthetic turf eliminated the fertilizer and nixed the pesticides while actually lookingGood (deFreitas cheekily refers to the turf as “Americanus artifi culus permanente”). “It’s a diffi cult area that has always been in half shade, half sun. And because it’s near the drop-off and frames, the view is always a focal point,” he says. e rest of the yard and outdoor areas— comprised of permeable elements such as cobble, decomposed granite and mulch—discourages runoff and is equally eco-kind.<br /> <br /> Once the courtyard was conceptually set, attention switched to the house itself. For inspiration, the 41-year-old architect turned the aesthetic clock back to 1919, the year Irving Gill’s business partner, architect William Hebbard, built a Swiss-chalet style Craftsman in S.D.’s South Park neighborhood. “One-roomwide, each room had windows on at least two sides, sometimes on three. e benefi ts of light, air circulation and sightlines are self-evident.” With that, deFreitas began to design. His wife’s one stipulation was that the house couldn’t be a museum and had to “be able to handle kids” (at the time, there were three little deFreitas; now there are four, ranging in age from 3 to 13).<br /> <br /> What came to be is a two-story, 3,400- square-foot rectangle measuring 18 feet by 87 feet and oriented lengthwise east to west— which not only aff ords excellent views but also enables the house to utilize several passive cooling strategies (the pre-air conditioning approach our grandparents’ generation knew very well).<br /> <br /> First, the east-west axis is much cooler than the north-south because sun hits—and heats—the long façade for far fewer hours each day. Second, fl oor-to-ceiling windows and 10- foot sliding glass doors line the shaded north elevation, with far fewer and smaller apertures on the southern and western exposures. is allows for maximum ambient light as opposed to direct sunlight (which not only warms the interiors but also damages materials, fi nishes and textiles). ird, 7-foot overhangs shade the hot southern windows, which are doubleframed (as are those on the western wall), providing twice the insulation. en there is the cooling benefi t of the one-room-wide axial arrangement. “Not only is it ideal for throughventilation, but if you open a small, high window or transom on one side of a room, andSlide open one of the large doors farther down the opposite wall, you get a vacuum eff ect and the hot air is sucked out of the house,” deFreitas says.<br /> <br /> But listening to the laws of physics while applying old-fashioned common sense doesn’t mean deFreitas wasn’t thoroughly modern in terms of building materials. e house is composed of concrete, glass, slate, various steels, stucco with integral color, and aluminum, many of which are used in innovative ways (aluminum, for example, covers the roof and will last at least 45 years, three times longer than asphalt). Likewise, in terms of the various systems, the house is vanguard. Control 4 is an integrated computer system that coordinates lighting, temperature, entertainment and security, while solar panels supply approximately 70 percent of the electricity in summer and 40 to 50 percent in the winter. ey also heat the home’s water and provide radiant heat to the fl oors.<br /> <br /> en there are what deFreitas calls the “tricks.” LED lighting, motion sensors that turn off lights and water faucets, energy- and water-effi cient appliances, double-glazed glass, and recycled glass and subway tiles lining bathroom walls (not to mention Toto dualfl ush toilets). “ e house consumes less energy and materials than the norm, and produces much more energy than the norm, so we’re attacking the problem of limited supply from both directions,” says deFreitas.<br /> <br /> What could be more illuminating and eco au courant than that? Try sharing the space with three pet rats, two drooling dogs, two hermit crabs, a Beta fi sh and a chinchilla. at’s the deFreitas clan, a modern-day Darwinian entourage that’s earth-conscious and—yes— granola-free.

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