This gold house: With green features, Sunny Cove home goes for LEED gold

From the Sentinel By Gretchen Wegrich

LEED Gold Seal When it comes to building green, there are leaders and there are followers. With the help of local architect Stephanie Barnes-Castro, a Live Oak couple recently became the first in the county to register their home for Residential Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification.

Longtime county residents Bud and Rebecca Colligan found inspiration in their unique oceanfront property in the Sunny Cove area.

“We wanted to build a home that was integrated into the coastal environment and also was as energy-efficient as possible,” Bud Colligan said. “We wanted our home to be beautiful, understated, low-maintenance, energy-efficient and be open to the views and coastline of this unique property.”

With the help of Barnes-Castro, Keenan Construction Company and interior designer Carla Carstens Design, the Colligans’ dream is becoming a reality.

A greener future

In 2000, in response to rising public interest in fighting climate change by conserving natural resources, the U.S. Green Building Council created a green building certification process for architects and homeowners.

“There is absolutely a drastic need to make changes in the way that we utilize material and in the way that we dispose of materials,” Barnes-Castro said of the status quo in construction.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program rates the design and construction of homes, taking into consideration factors such as construction materials and methods.From the Sentinel By Gretchen Wegrich Based on a point system, a construction project qualifies for one of four levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

LEED certification is available for all types of construction including remodels. There are a few commercial/educational buildings in the county that achieved LEED gold, but currently no residential.

“Just like any certification, the LEED certification is there to inspire people; it’s not the final goal,” Barnes-Castro said, noting it is possible to exceed the requirements set by the LEED program.

A house to grow in

The Colligans’ Geoffroy Drive home overflows with sustainable design features, such as solar orientation and shaded windows.

“We love the canopies that shade our windows — they provide both an energy-efficient design element and are unique and aesthetically pleasing,” Bud Colligan said.

The home was built with closed-cell insulation, termite protection and extreme water-proofing. The design also incorporates high-efficiency appliances and plumbing, radiant heating, and heat-recovery ventilation to provide fresh air when doors and windows are closed, as well as other sustainable design features. The home was built using Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, a certification that means wood is grown, harvested and managed in a sustainable manner. The exterior of the home features a zinc-coated copper roof with a lifespan of about 100 years and a native plant landscape.

“We paid a lot of attention to things like double-paned windows, blown high-performance insulation, radiant heating, sustainable wood products, and energy-saving lighting,” Bud Colligan said, adding that documenting each step of the project was an important part of the certification process.

The former house on the oceanfront property was deconstructed and the materials donated to the ReUse Network.

By the numbers

While the construction costs of building a LEED-certified home are likely to be higher than traditional construction, homeowners taking the “long view” will see their investment pay dividends in energy savings and materials that withstand the wear and tear of time, Barnes-Castro said.

“Some of the simplest measures to make a home energy-efficient are the most cost-effective,” she said, noting that in addition to passive solar design, insulation and airtight construction were two inexpensive and vital factors that could be incorporated into just about any budget.

“There is a range of choices and I think there is something for everybody”, she said.

Barnes-Castro is currently designing a home on Santa Cruz’s Westside with an aim of exceeding the Residential LEED Gold certification standards.

“When I have an opportunity to design a home, I have an opportunity to make a difference,” she said. “The motivation is to help people find a way to live more in harmony with the Earth.”

Registration and fees for LEED certification average around $2,600 a project, according to the Green Building Certification Institute. Certification is granted on the recommendation of a third-party professional.

The Colligans worked with Sharon Block of Bright Green Strategies in Santa Cruz.

For more information or to register a project for LEED certification, visit

View the original article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel

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