On Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 4 and 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., it is GreenBuilt Tour time! The GreenBuilt Tour is produced annually by San Diego EarthWorks, a local nonprofit (also the producers of the annual EarthFair in Balboa Park).
Each year the GreenBuilt Tour features at least one “outlying” area. Jamul has been one of those areas since the beginning, as we have a good cross-section of environmentally-oriented homes in straw bale, and more recently Perform Wall – building technologies with green features and much higher fire resistance than standard construction.
This year, though, we Jamulians have deeded the joys of last-minute tour preparation to the “outlying” areas of Fallbrook and Bonsall. One family there is remodeling green and two others are building new homes that are both green and fire-resistant, in the wake of last year’s devastating fires.
Green building here in California has included fire-safety issues in its mandate for many years, but until 2003 most folks seemed to feel it was an issue faced only by those of us living outside the cities.
Unfortunately, 2003 and 2007 taught us that wildfire does not recognize arbitrary boundaries and cities with tracts of stick-built homes are vulnerable to even higher losses than rural areas.
September is National Disaster Preparedness Month and the San Diego Office of Emergency Services’ local Wildfire Public Awareness Campaign includes a recommendation to visit the GreenBuilt Tour homes in Fallbrook and Bonsall. They offer good examples of fire-resistant construction methods, along with upgrades that can be used in any type of home.
Site 18 on the tour is the Dienharts’ Perform Wall house in Bonsall, sited on 40 acres of avocado trees and still under construction.
Perform Wall is a brand name for ICF (insulated concrete form) technology that combines 25 percent Portland cement with 75 percent recycled polystyrene (Styrofoam) beads to form fireproof, relatively lightweight panels which are also highly insulating, both energy- and sound-wise.
The panels contain open channels which are reinforced with steel and filled with concrete after the walls are built. They can withstand four hours direct application of a blowtorch without burning and are usually coated with concrete stucco for appearance and further fire resistance.
While Portland cement is notoriously energy-intensive in production, the ICF technology does allow it to be used in smaller amounts and provides a useful purpose for previously unrecyclable polystyrene. It is also immune to termites and mold, reducing maintenance and possible health concerns. In fire-prone California it is a green tradeoff many people can live with.
If you are looking for something a little less in the concrete line, take a look at Site 19, the Atkins’ straw bale home in Fallbrook. I can (obviously) attest to the superior insulating and soundproofing qualities of bale construction, and it has been rated double the fire-resistance of standard construction when properly covered in stucco or earth plaster.
The Atkins have added metal fire shutters and a very clever gravity-fed exterior fire-sprinkler system that uses the water from their swimming pool in the event of a fire. But it’s not all about fire. Bale buildings have a certain ineffable “feel” that you have to experience, so I urge you to visit this newly finished home.
Site 20 is the Liebes’ home near downtown Fallbrook, which is a terrific example of a green remodel. The owners have taken a tiny older home and rethought nearly every aspect of both the structure and the landscaping to save energy and water and create a more sustainable and healthy home.
If you have the time, don’t stop with these three homes. There are several other sites in north and east county on Sunday, including San Diego’s only platinum-certified LEED structure, the Ranch House at Del Sur.
If you’ve ever wondered what you can do to “green” your home, business, landscape or lifestyle, the GreenBuilt Tour is a terrific place to see what real people have achieved on a variety of budgets. Set aside part, or all, of the weekend to see how they did it. But be warned, the enthusiasm and inspiration are addictive.
For more information on the GreenBuilt Tour, including ticket price and how to volunteer, visit http://www.earthdayweb.org.
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