Gallery: Twitter Co-Founder Irks Neighbors with Plans to Raze $3 Millio...


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?

Via Daily Mail and The Examiner


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  1. CaliforniaArchitect August 21, 2012 at 10:17 am

    As an architect myself, it’s easy to see that this house is naturally an eco-friendly house. The work in tearing down (or for that matter, the impracticable matter of moving) all of the materials and work (in energy units) that went into erecting this house, PLUS the work and energy in putting up the new “green” house and the expenditure in the loss of natural materials added to the relatively low efficiency of manufactured parts (about 25% efficient), PLUS the additional 2,700 square feet of construction (enough for a “green” house on its own), we get a “NET Negative” that would keep the existing house going for the next century, through and past the year 2100. To call the replacement of this house “green” is pure vanity at best.

  2. mskky August 16, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    The desire to demolish an existing property that is in good condition and which embodies not only history but also irreplacable craft and material value is foolishness with an eco-spin. In the climate where this site is located, it’s entirely possible to introduce interventions to reduce the energy and water waste represented by the daily use impacts of the existing structure. It’s also likely that the new design is not going to embody the same level of handicraft as the 1911 version because it’s simply not available in the building industry any longer. If the owner wants a clear building site on which they can make a positive impact, there are plenty of brownfield sites just waiting for a willing and visionary owner.

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