Gallery: GREAT GREEN REHAB: Brooks/Cadora Residence


Photo by Yvette Roman

The third green home in our Great Green Homes series is a shining example of adaptive reuse, thoughtful materials, and sustainable systems. The Brooks/Cadora home in Southern California, designed by Santa Monica-based David Kellen and Associates, took a mid-century ranch home and added 1400 square feet of new eco-friendly space. The result is a lovely contemporary home with all the modern, high-tech green trimmings that also pays homage to the beauty of original structure. From solar power to hemp countertops, a solar yurt on site, and a waterless urinal, this home embodies future-forward green design in every way.

Photo by Yvette Roman

There are far too many impressive green features to list, but standout highlights include a 3.5 kilowatt AC photovoltaic system, passive solar cooling (no air conditioning system), and solar hot water collector with a 90 gallon storage tank. Green interior materials include everything from cork flooring and recycled glass tile to wheat stalk panels in the kitchen and hemp countertops in the bathroom. If you’re curious about the stucco, it’s an all-natural material imported from Italy. To top it all off, the home uses a Bosch tankless water heater, EnergyStar appliances, a waterless urinal in the master bath, and CFL and LED lighting.

Traces of the original structure peak through corners, giving the house a sense of history in unexpected places. And beyond the house’s walls, the Brooks/Cadora home includes a solar-powered yurt on site, solar powered fencing for the horse corral, and all vehicles run on biodiesel, with the exception of a Prius. Does it get greener than this?

Thanks to Eric Cadora, green consultant and the house’s lucky owner for nominating the home and providing such lovely imagery.

+ David Kellen and Associates
+ Moss Cadora Green Consulting and Development

Photos by Yvette Roman


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  1. Rainmaker October 10, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    This house is eco-chic and shows that green can have elegance and style. Plus, this project was done a few years ago before the availability or variety of sustainable materials. If mainstream is going to adopt green building practices, there is going to be a transition period, which might mean a bigger house, no gray water system or some imported materials. If we are to be idealistic, maybe all new building should be made from 100% compostable materials, all food grown locally and eradicate petroleum use. But that is not realistic. Codes won’t allow it. Even if our species decided to make those changes, it would still take decades for the transition. Let’s appreciate the positive steps taken and then set and live up to a higher example ourselves.

  2. Tom October 9, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    It saddens me to once again see people of rigid and unreasoning idealism throwing stones at anything that doesn’t meet their own standards. A home like this featured in Architectural Digest is worth far more to the cause of green and sustainable housing that all of the Earth ships that have ever been featured in all of the issues of Mother Earth News combined. Preaching to the choir may feel good but you aren’t changing anyone’s mind The idea that a home must be built in an area that can support a building industry with “local” materials to be green is simply beyond reason unless all homes are to be made of used tire and rammed earth . In my mind keeping people concentrated into urban areas and out of the areas that produce our resources is a far more worthy goal as it is far more difficult to grow F.S.C. lumber in a housing development than in the woods. Moving people to the resources is far browner that moving the resources to the people. As far as the Italian plaster is concerned I can understand the embodied energy argument if there were a “ Local” source for a natural product, however in the absence of such you can chose to buy a “Local” chem. Intensive product or you can chose to source them from abroad. This is called the market and it will if enough people chose to take their business elsewhere become a motivator for someone to produce it “Locally”. As an example the Prius that this couple owns. “Local” manufactures haven’t produced a product that meets the demands of the green consumer so they take their business to an overseas producer. This has caused the big three to begin producing products that they never would have produced otherwise. So if we are ever able to buy a locally produced plaster product we have the people who paid the premium and started to demand it to thank for it. The same goes for led lighting (Chinese) or solar panels (German or Japanese). These things don’t happen because we all stand in a circle and pray to the Goddess, they happen because forward thinking people take the difficult road and drive the market, period.
    As far as the reduce, reuse, recycle argument is concerned this house is to be admired. The article labels it a mid century ranch which in my eyes is far from the “beautiful cozy” home that Mark is so proud of. In fact if I’m not mistaken in the 5th picture there is a bit of the concrete block the original structure is built of. I wonder if while Oli asks the builder to think of green building not in isolation he is considering that the vast majority of people would simply have torn down the whole thing and started over. This of course would be energy intensive and wasteful as well as cheaper as the cost of building onto a structure of 0 earthquake resistance as most block structures are is quite costly. This structure is now far more likely survive in the future than before which is by any measure a green outcome. So while some people may require that others wear clothes that agree with what their ideas of “punk” is it seems that in fashion as well as green building it takes more that a harsh judgmental glance to get at the reality of things.
    Now finally I will climb down off my lofty soap box and say that while I personally am of the dumpster dive green building school I know that without people on the forefront of green building I would have very few choices when the situation demands that I shoot the lock off the wallet and by some caulk, paint, or anything else that I may need. Remember that ideology untempered by reality is what has brought us the Iraq war. So lets not be neocon greenies but greenies that live in the reality based world. Thanks a lot for making it to the end of this long diatribe, feel free to bash me as you see fit as not green enough to be taken seriously because after all I eat meat even if it’s produced locally and grass fed. No surrender in the name of environmental purity. If everyone can be considered green what’s the point?

  3. David September 27, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Do you have any before pictures?

  4. osi okonkwo September 26, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Stop Hating, Haters

  5. Mark September 20, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Oli hit the nail on the head. While it would be ideal to incorporate many of these green ideas into new housing, I strongly feel that the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” should be followed in that order. Reduce first, then reuse what you can’t reduce, then recycle what you can’t reuse. My wife and I live in an adorable 1924 cottage that’s little bigger than 700 square feet, and you know what? We’re doing fine. It’s beautiful, and cozy, and entirely livable. Over the next 10 years, our house probably won’t be using up the amount of energy it took to renovate just this one mansion above.

    The whole thing feels like somebody buying carefully pre-ripped designer jeans and a $900 distressed leather jacket in order to look “punk.” Eric Cadora, I hope you’re reading these comments. You seem like a bright guy, and you’re making a lot of money off this “greening” fad. But look more deeply at the “why” behind what you’re doing.

  6. Oli September 19, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    1400 sq feet? It would have been greener not to renovate at all, when you consider the amount of embodied energy in the new materials not to mention those shipped from overseas. Once again, people seem to be thinking about green building techniques in isolation rather than about an integral ‘green’ concept for the site.

    That said, many of these principals are great and should be included in future new housing.

  7. Daniel September 18, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Now, I know I will be chastised for making this remark, but I’ll say it anyway. At least some of these people who do have the means to build such extravagant homes are thinking about “reducing” their impact on resources/environment/earth etc. Currently the majority of most construction, is as unsustainable as it has ever been and continues to be the prominent form of building even with this wave of “green awareness.” Granted until the CRGBC’s “Living Building Challenge” has been accomplished there will always be room for improvement and even then you will find critic’s.

    The fact is people are becoming aware and while this is a forum visited by a rather “aware” constituency who no doubt is on the cutting edge of this “green revolution” the world is still turning and running at full tilt toward the edge.

    While this is something that I know everyone already is aware of I’m only mentioning it because I like this house and I have a feeling it is going to get trashed while we continue to ignore the majority of the world who hasn’t even taken a step in the sustainable direction.

  8. Michael September 18, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Importing your matreials from Italy is not eco-friendly. Consider the Carbon footprint of importing materials across the Atlantic Ocean and the amount of co2 released by shipping freighter. An eco-friendly home should also include: using materials indigenous the the area or region where the home is being built! Another example of green washing, the overall design is a bit boring as well. Not impressed to say the least…

  9. modular man September 18, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Let’s not be too negative. It is better to be greener than not. Hopefully the changes to make this house greener will encourage even more dramatic changes.

  10. Cheryl September 18, 2007 at 10:34 am

    It gets much “Greener” than that! Please reconsider how you throw “green” around in your articles. How many cars does one family need (think what it takes to produce that vehicle, not just to run it)? I love the idea of retrofitting existing homes, but 1400 additional sq. ft. is NOT GREEN. Stucco shipped all the way from Italy is NOT GREEN. Let’s see someone do something with local materials and reuse some found objects (without over processing). Too many green features to list? I don’t even see a rain catchment system. Are they producing their own food on site? Perhaps they are using a method such as Permaculture or something like that? What are they doing with the greywater that is produced by the residents? I am not against showcasing new “green” products, but please don’t exclude truely green designs that are making a difference in the lives of most people (including those who make less than 6 figures).
    Thank You!

  11. TimothyPratte September 17, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    Building green is a technique of utilizing economically & environmentally sustainable materials and energy, at the same time reducing waste and toxins. A technique way past due.
    Too bad the architecture utilizing these techniques are still stuck in the “post-modernist” age. The bland, lifeless floorplans, design elements & placement, and details are typical of today’s computer-generated SIMS-like inspiration of human habitation. If the people actually living there had input into the design process: details, coves, optimized functional spaces, and creativity would bloom. Refer to Christopher Alexander’s wonderful new books on architecture/design/color for inspiring a truly beautiful/livable designs within all of us.

    Encapsulating foreward-thinking ideas in a “Prius” shell devalues its integrity/longevity. Speak up all you non-computer-drone architects out there!!!

  12. zed September 17, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    i would totally want a house just like this, its totally green and not ugly, but the downside to this.. wouldnt it be too expensive to build such a customized eco-friendly home?

  13. Matt September 17, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    I really appreciate that this beautiful home was made with green products and materials.


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