Perhaps the greenest home is the one already built. A couple in the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico took this to heart when they renovated an abandoned early eightieth-century home and transformed it into an urban garden. This 9000 square foot building was carefully upgraded and preserved with a light modernist touch. The couple had very different ideas for a home so they compromised by doing both — the husband has a large vegetable garden and green roof, while the wife enjoys the home’s location in the heart of town and runs her arts nonprofit on-site.
The colonial building was boarded up for decades, so the couple had major restoration work to do. Doing the design work themselves, they kept the original floor plan intact — touches like freshly-plastered walls and polished concrete floors harmonize the interior. The large flat roof was converted to a vegetable garden and grassy area. In the dense downtown neighborhood this small patch of green gives the family food and a place to be outside, above the bustling and colorful neighborhood. The list of produce they acquire from their urban garden is impressive — green beans, tomatoes, eggplants, sweet potatoes, scallions, rosemary, basil and other herbs.
The owners intended to create an easily adaptable program for the home, so the rooms were designed with an open and sparse sensibility. Special touches like low-energy fluorescent lighting and a staircase made from old iron wood beams reclaimed from the ceiling show the couple’s sensitivity toward the home’s environmental impact. The sheer volume of the home was more than any family of four could use, so the street level is now home to an arts nonprofit. Beta-Local is focused on bringing artists together and exploring the Puerto Rican experience though workshops, residencies, and other projects.