Design firm builds green dream home

MV-based Vox touts its latest project as one of state's most eco-friendly

The builders of a new house now under construction just a few blocks from Castro Street are touting their design as "one of California's greenest homes."

It's no small claim to make in Mountain View -- a community where examples of highly efficient design abound. But taking a walk around the 343 Paul Ave. property, one can see that Forrest Linebarger and Ken Arends of Vox Design Group aren't being hyperbolic.

The home will feature a living roof composed of drought-resistant plants; triple-paned windows and structurally insulated walls to keep heat in or out; a constructed wetlands in the backyard to filter the home's gray water; a catchment system, which gathers rain runoff from the roof; an overall design that takes into account the movement of the sun throughout the seasons to minimize the need for heating, air conditioning and the use of indoor lighting; and a moat, which in addition to being aesthetically pleasing will help draw cool air around the home at different parts of the day, depending upon which side of the structure is in the sun.

Rob Koo, who works as head of story for Dreamworks, hired the Mountain View-based Vox to create his new home. But according to Linebarger, a customer doesn't need to have as desirable a job as Koo's to afford his services.

Although it cost roughly 10 percent more to build a green home when he founded Vox back in 2003, today that is no longer the case, Linebarger insists.

"It costs exactly the same if you build it green or if you don't," he says. "That's the irony -- like, why isn't everybody doing this? It's a lack of knowledge."

The only thing that adds on to the price tag, he says, are solar panels. However, the cost of installing those is eventually offset by the energy they produce and the overall efficiency achieved by living in a green home over the long run.

The water catchment system is going to collect an anticipated 16,000 gallons of runoff, which can be used to water Koo's living roof and backyard plants. The living roof, lined with native sedums and succulents that don't require much watering, will keep the home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. And the house's many windows and light tunnels won't only help with the electricity bill, they may also help Koo live a healthier, more productive, life.

"We're doing some great stuff with the light," Linebarger says. "All the natural light has the potential to reduce seasonal disorder effects, and has been shown to improve productivity."

Examples of some of the design applied to Koo's new home -- which Linebarger hopes to complete within three months' time -- can be found at Vox's office, located at 421 Castro St.

Koo said he is looking forward to relaxing on the living deck that will extend out from his bedroom and overlook his backyard. Asked what he plans to put out there besides a healthy assortment of plant life, he replies: "a couple of lawn chairs and a cocktail bar."


Like this comment
Posted by Bruno
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:19 am

I've been watching this house take shape and I love the originality of the design. It's taking a while, but I look forward to seeing what it looks like once it's done.

Like this comment
Posted by h. brunner
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 16, 2012 at 4:26 am

It's really nice to see projects like this but...costs the same to build green as not? As compared to what...high end residential versus mediocre...perhaps these self-effacing boys should be careful how they stretch their facts...I applaud their attempt at creating a niche for themselves...

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Posted by nice
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 18, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Is this an advertisement for Vox or an article? We consulted Vox for a simple home remodel and they started talking about moving walls and expanding the footprint of the house. Their cost was way out of line with what we told them our budget was (which was not a small amount). My impression was that they don't listen to their clients and instead want to use your house as a testing ground for new ideas. All on your dime.

Like this comment
Posted by Ray Morneau
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Great for Rob Koo & the neighborhood there! I look forward to watching this. And, gosh, I hope Mr. Nice can find a good designer/contractor to work with smoothly.

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