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.

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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