Net Zero Energy House

By Sandy Keenan, Originally Published in New York Times

Buzz Yudell and Tina Beebe’s new house is nearly net zero, meaning it produces almost all the energy it consumes. Photo: Trevor Tondro for The New York Times

Tina Beebe, an architectural colorist, painter and landscape designer, and Buzz Yudell, an award-winning architect, have a sneaky way of making everything they touch look easy and inviting. But transitions can be difficult even for those who are accomplished in the art of living well in homes of their own invention.

The couple, who have been together since their days at Yale and are now both 66, have been collaborating at work and play for most of their lives. Still, moving on from their most celebrated residence, a cascading ocean-view villa on the outskirts of Malibu, to a more constrained lot in Santa Monica hasn’t been altogether smooth.

She misses her garden and the stars and seeing storms approaching on the horizon. He misses the rugged landscape and that sense of openness. And it goes without saying that Zephyr and Phoebe, their golden retrievers, miss their old leash-free life.

“Buzz has always been more urban than I am,” said Ms. Beebe, who grew up in Oregon. “I cry when I see my old garden; we could eat from it.”

What they don’t miss is all the upkeep, or the constant worry about fires. Or the crazy drivers and the erratic commute along Pacific Coast Highway 1 to the Moore Ruble Yudell offices in Santa Monica, where they work during the week.As Mr. Yudell said, “We found that the distance to Malibu was a little too remote as we got older.”

(Photo courtesy Moore Ruble Yudell Architects)

There is nothing remote or hidden about the airy modern confection he designed to maximize every bit of sunlight and space on the 60-by-150-foot lot they now occupy in a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes here. They tore down the 1924 Tudor they bought for $2.75 million in 2007, which was in bad shape, replacing it with a 4,500-square-foot house that cost roughly $500 a square foot to build — a considerable sum, to be sure, but then again, it is nearly net zero, meaning it produces almost all the energy it consumes.

(Image courtesy MRY)

One solar-powered energy system heats the radiant floors, household water and pool; another supplies all the energy for the home’s electrical needs, sending excess back into the communal grid. And there is no need for air-conditioning because Mr. Yudell incorporated many of the features of a passive house, so the home stays a livable 79 to 81 degrees even when the temperature outside reaches the mid-90s.

The interior is spare and uncluttered, thanks in part to cabinetry from Henrybuilt in Seattle. Ms. Beebe likes to tease her husband about all the fossil fuel it took to get those cabinets to Southern California. “It’s a good thing that you saved all that CO2,” she said.

Out of view, there is a closet with the few mechanicals the house needs, as well as a two-story cavity, in case they ever need an elevator, Mr. Yudell said. (For now, it’s being used as closet space.)

(Image courtesy MRY)

To see The New York Times slide show of the house, click here.



01/09/2014