Twitter co-founder Evan Williams’ plans to build a state-of-the-art net zero energy house in San Francisco has the neighbors up in arms. Why? His green dream home involves tearing down a 1911 $3 million beauty. Before Williams even submitted a plan, 240 opposition letters from neighbors filled the planning department’s (virtual) mailbox.
The home in question was designed by architect Louis Christian Mullgart and has historic roots in the exclusive Parnassus Heights neighborhood overlooking the San Francisco skyline. At 5000 square feet, the home is replete with details from the Arts and Crafts design movement and it features unique angular windows which let in a fantastic view when there is no fog. The plans are to scrap — or hopefully deconstruct — the house and replace it with a yet-to-be-finalized design by architects Lundburg Design measuring in at 7,700 square feet.
The plans call for “a new ‘zero net energy’ home with solar panels, a green roof and sun-friendly windows”. Putting aside the embodied energy involved, sun friendly windows and solar panels may not be nearly enough to placate a neighborhood which values the historic presence of the original house.
While this an argument among the very well-off, it does pose the more serious question about what green building really is. The impact of the new home may be less over time. The attitude of scrapping and rebuilding for the sake of realizing a dream home also renders the concept of zero net energy meaningless if it falls victim to the next ‘dream house’. If the neighbors are successful, they’ll also make it harder from those who are willing to invest into low-impact homes — allowing nostalgia to trump substance. What do you think?