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Tour Shows Beauty in Environmental Living
Santa Barbara News-Press
By Ann Griffith
October 22, 2001

Ann Jaqua and her husband have built their own energy-efficient home in Isla Vista that behind its gardens gates seems like a Greek island paradise.

They showed the 1991 home to visitors Sunday, day two of the Parade of Green Buildings sponsored by the Sustainability Project and Santa Barbara Contractors Association. It's the home's second year on the tour.

"We feel pretty strongly about the environment and not using up resources. We really couldn't do it any other way," said Ms. Jaqua of the home she built with husband David Griffin. "A lot of houses in the 1970s, when the environmental movement started, were built very functionally, but they weren't very attractive. We like showing that you can have a nice-looking house."

She and her husband shopped for six years for the house of their dreams on the ocean. They couldn't find anything within their budget and started looking for land with the plan of building their own house. When a real estate agent showed them a tiny lot in Isla Vista next to UCSB's Coal Oil Point Reserve, they put in an offer in 15 minutes.

Today, the smooth, white lines of the 1,658 square foot home stand out in a quieter end of an area that's home to hundreds of college students as well as professors and families seeking affordable housing.

The home was planned with extra-thick walls and double-pane windows. The extra insulation in the walls is at least 50 percent thicker than normal and helps keep out noise.

Sunlight helps warm the house. In addition, heat is stored on the bare concrete slab floors, decorated to look like more expensive tiles. The home is also heated with solar energy.

Rainwater collected on the roof falls into an underground cistern, where it is stored to water the drought-tolerant garden in the summer.

Perhaps her most enjoyable recycling project was refurbishing used furniture and fixtures she found through dozens of trips to area thrift stores.

In all, the tour Saturday and Sunday featured three homes in addition to the Sanford Winery, South Coast Watershed Resource Center, the Milton Roisman Jewish Student Center and UCSB's Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, under construction to be one of the "greenest" buildings in the country.

Mike Williams, director of UCSB's Sedgwick Reserve, attended the tour Saturday to get ideas for environmentally-sensitive construction projects.

I'm really interested in learning about materials," Mr. Williams said. "To see it applied is different from seeing it in the box."

He was visiting the Milton Roisman Jewish Student enter, where traditional linoleum was used in large areas for its strength and ability to be recycled. Bamboo flooring was also used because it is strong and made of plant that grows faster than trees in less space.

The student center features conservation measures such as waterless urinals that save 40,000 gallons of water a year. Building without an air-cooling system was possible near the ocean in Isla Vista, but it also took a commitment from the organization. The building, which opened in August, is usually comfortable, but it might warm up on the High Holy days with hundreds of extra guests.

"The rabbi is prepared to tell people that being a bit uncomfortable is part of being environmentally helpful," said L. Dennis Thompson, principal of Thompson-Naylor Architects, which designed Ms. Jaqua's home and the Jewish Student Center.

Some of the many green portions of the project were as simple as picking out the recycled version of materials. But each client must choose how much he is willing to do. Sometimes green ideas like omitting air conditioning save money from the start. Others must be paid off in energy savings over time.

And still others just don't make sense for a given project. For example, power-generating units are expensive and weren't warranted with the given budget and electricity load at the center.

"You try to bring people along and you give them choices." Mr. Thompson said. "You don't always get the Bren School as a client."