Gallery: CASA VERDE: Sunset’s Green Dream Home in San Francisco

Sunset's Casa Verde Idea House
Sunset's Casa Verde Idea House

This weekend, I attended the NEN’s Clean and Green Summit which included a wonderful green walking tour of San Francisco’s Mission district. We strolled by beautiful gardens and saw some great community initiatives, but the highlight by far was a showing of Sunset Magazine’s sustainable gem, Casa Verde. We’ve covered the zero energy super-home in the past, but here’s a first-hand look at its stunning fusion of fine modern design with an exceptional set of sustainable features.

Situated a block away from Garfield Park, Casa Verde contributes a shining example of green architecture to San Francisco’s vibrant Mission neighborhood. Designed by John Lum Architecture and constructed by Meridian Builders and Developers, the infill is an exceptional renovation of an existing structure that showcases the state of the art in sustainable design.

Upon entering the foyer of Casa Verde we were greeted by the house’s patio and spa, which lead into the building’s beautiful courtyard via a sliding set of doors. Despite the brisk weather and the foyer’s open air construction, the interior was pleasantly toasty thanks to the building’s solar-thermal heating system and radiant floors.

The exterior walkways all feature permeable paving, a boon considering San Francisco’s temperamental rainy season and the Mission’s ancient state as a marshland. The courtyard is a peaceful place, silent save for the trickle of its fountain and the soft thrum of a wind turbine – a rarity in inner city spaces.

It’s one of the few turbines that been cleared for construction in San Francisco as part of provisional study to test the efficiency of wind-power in the bay area. The turbine generates from 1.6 to 1.9 KW of electricity which is boosted by 5KW from a set of solar panels to provide for all of the 3,700 sq foot home’s energy needs. Should windspeeds increase above 60mph the turbine will lock up to prevent a breakdown, and our guide, Chris, allayed our avian fears, stating that not a single bird injury has happened since construction was finished last Fall.

Casa Verde’s vibrant interior softens its industrial metal and glass construction with eye-catching pops of color and texture. Moving on to the living areas we climbed a beautiful set of staircases with lucid glass slats that glow with light filtering down from above. All of the building’s wood floors and surfaces are FSC certified or reclaimed, and the builders took great care to recycle 90% of construction waste.

As we reached the top story we looked up and saw a stunning Ether chandelier hanging above the third floor staircase. Its beautiful hand-blown glass baubles are illuminated from the top to create a shimmering halo effect, conjuring up images of sun-laden dewdrops or fireflies in jars.

Casa Verde’s crowning story features an open floor plan suffused with light thanks to the great glass windows that surround it. An elegant Noguchi table lies nestled between two white Barcelona chairs, testament to the timeless chic of all things mid-century modern. Slick surfaces and warm wood-grain finishes are accented by dynamic rough-hewn artworks composed from single sheets of metal that have been cut into spiraling shapes and extruded outward. All of the home’s appliances are Energy Star certified, and a planter sparkling with bits of reclaimed glass sits atop a counter recycled from the same material. A green roof with a rainwater recycling system tops off the sustainable citadel.

As we walked away I couldn’t help but notice the “For Sale” sign staked out in front. I somehow neglected to ask for an estimate.

+ Casa Verde Idea House

Photos by Mike Chino


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  1. vicky February 15, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    The wind turbine and solar panels are not creating 1 KW of electricity….all of it is coming from an illegal cable tapping into the neighbors PG and E panel.


  2. mikeinsf June 24, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    I don’t agree with you at all surfeit. The builders of this home obviously have the means to build any kind of house they’d like. Even if this is somewhat of an urban McMansion, I’d much rather see new developments built like this one, with high percentages of reclaimed materials and efficiency. The owners can afford more square footage. So what? This house can’t be judged on the scale of homes for the masses because this is not a home most people could afford. I don’t think anyone is trying to sell this as a home for the masses.That doesn’t mean that it fails to accomplish goals that make it much better for the environment than other upscale urban dwellings.

    Everyone doesn’t have to live down to the lowest common denominator in order to tread more lightly on the environment. I’m not sharing a 1000 sqft apartment with a roommate because I want to. I’m saving for my first home in SF, which will be modest and probably in the 1200 sqft range. If I could afford to build my own home I would, and I’d want to do it with a balance of amenities and environmental responsibility. I think this home achieves that.

  3. surfeit June 10, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    To me, this “dream home” embodies the incredible excess that has become tied to the “green consumer” movement. Sensitive to the environment? Perhaps. Sensitive to the neighborhood and the surrounding community? Doesn’t seem like it. At 3,700 square feet this home is vastly larger than any single family dwelling in the vicinity — anything that big has been divided into 2 or 3 apartments to accommodate the density of the Mission district, and San Francisco in general.

    Also, is this really considered a renovation? There’s very little on the exterior (which I’ve seen up close) to indicate that pieces of the preexisting building were kept intact when constructing this house. I’d have liked for this article to discuss more about the building process, the materials that were used, what was discarded, what was reincorporated, and generally why this place deserves to be celebrated as a pinnacle of green building. Barcelona chairs, Noguchi tables, and an in-home spa do not a sustainable house make.

    This strikes me as another example of a wealthy homeowner and developer justifying their excess and evading the guilt of overconsumption with a green story. It’s great that the place generates much of its own energy, but as an expression of big-picture sustainability (that being not just attention to the environment but also to people, context, history, urbanism, and a long view on the future), it misses the point.

  4. ktgrnwd June 5, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    It’s whimsical, it’s fun and most relevant, the owner took great care in considering it’s design regarding the environment, making M.E. (mother earth) the major benefactor for this project. Who cares that the aesthetics don’t suit all tastes!

  5. DeadPanDan June 5, 2008 at 11:35 am

    It looks happy to me.

  6. Scott June 4, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    hah, it is very miss-matched isnt it…
    its got some cool funky things in it though.
    not being all that familiar with the area, it looks huge on the outside. i think 2 families could easily fit into that space.

  7. organicgrid June 4, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Actually the design is horrible to be honest with you. It looks the architect used just about every design style & the entire color palette currently available to man to create this monstrosity.

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