Harmony House


Apr 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

   Photo: Illustration by Arthur Mount

"The term 'ecological building' is sort of an oxymoron," says David Hertz, a leading green architect who designs spectacularly sustainable eco-manors (and mere houses) for everyone from Hollywood stars like Julia Louis-Dreyfus to, well, his own family. The irony, he says, is that the greenest structures are no structures at all—or tiny, movable ones. Still, this 44-year-old surfer and father of three constructed a beautiful 2,700-square-foot family residence near the ocean in Venice, California, using the latest planet-friendly technologies and materials, including one he invented himself. Syndecrete—a smooth concrete made from recycled fly ash (the byproduct of incinerated coal) and post-consumer industrial products like electronics, glass, and carpet fibers—graces his floors, counters, sinks, tubs, and planters. Sliding doors open to three inner courtyards, including one with a solar-heated, chlorine-free lap pool. Après surfing or beachgoing, the family can wash sand off in a solar-heated outdoor shower, then dry wet stuff on their bathroom's solar-heated radiant floor. "For L.A., this place is modest in scale and large in inventiveness," says Hertz of his multi-pavilioned home, which is sited to catch prevailing sea breezes and cloud views. "I can tell which way the wind is blowing from inside."

1. For ventilation and natural indoor temperature control, the windows and skylights are "climate responsive"—programmed to open and close automatically by sensing atmospheric temperature and moisture.

2. Outfitted with photovoltaic panels, the rooftop maximizes solar gain via parabolic oxygen-free glass tubes that concentrate the energy from rays. The solar power runs the water heater.

3. Inside the upstairs master bedroom, and in bathrooms throughout the house, bidet-like paperless toilets offer a rear and front wash-and-dry option, with a push button that blows water and then warm air.

4. Beds and chairs on sleeping porches are made from sustainable teak and organic cotton batting and fabric.

5. Embedded with radiant tubes for circulating solar-heated hot water, the carpet-less floors offer a clean and efficient closed-loop heating system—and provide thermal mass to warm the house.

6. On most days, Hertz's house creates "nega-watts": It makes enough solar-powered electricity to sell some back to the utility company. On foggy days and at night, it draws from the grid.

7. Made of stucco, concrete, glass, and remilled timber such as Douglas fir, the house's exterior echoes its interior, adding to the flow of indoor-outdoor living space. The stucco is pigment-integrated—free of paint and volatile organic compounds.

8. Made of rammed earth—the soil excavated from the site—the wall alleviated the need to buy soil or use wood to fence the property.

9. Hardy, drought-tolerant plants thrive in the open areas, keeping the foliage as eco-positive as possible.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Open a World of Adventure

Our Dispatch email delivers the stories you can’t afford to miss.

Thank you!