When the arrival of their newborn son threw Robert Fortunato out of his current office space, he and his wife Monica knew it was time to renovate their home in order to accommodate their growing family. Both had traveled the world and witnessed how efficiently other populations harnessed and reused energy, so the Fortunatos were determined to incorporate as many green ideas as possible into their California contemporary home in Hermosa Beach, originally built in 1959.
The “Green Idea House,” as their two-story house has come to be known, is now a 2,100-square-foot eco-friendly magnet for visitors. They have welcomed an estimated 4,000 guests into their home, most recently local South Bay residents from last year’s Annual Sandpipers Holiday Homes Tour.
So many folks want a look at what they have done.
Overall, renovations increased the size of the house by nearly 60 percent, and the upgrades achieved the goal of reducing the energy load by more than 80 percent. Their home now generates as much energy as it uses and releases no carbon emissions.
In fact, the couple ends up selling electricity back to the energy grid through Southern California Edison’s “feed in tariff” program, which pays a homeowner back for excess energy produced over what was consumed.
“We not only kept 97.5 percent of our demo waste out of the landfill, but demonstrated that materials that otherwise would have gone to the landfill can be repurposed,” said Robert, 48, a leadership and business strategy consultant.
The Fortunatos and their 10-year-old son Carter spent a year living in a rental property while their 1,300-square-foot Prospect Avenue home was renovated. Altogether, the remodeling project stayed within their $400,000 budget, and the refurbished home that has drawn accolades from city officials and environmental advocates was completed in the Spring 2012.
From recycled glass windows to LED lighting, their consumer behavior revolves around a conscious effort to consider the environmental impact of their decisions, naturally leading them towards a design aesthetic that is functional and beautiful.
With the help of The ReUse People, a repurposing company, reclaimed redwood glued together from the end cuts of an 80-year-old house in Brentwood is now used throughout the family’s home. The kitchen island sparkles because of the recycled mirrors used to create the countertops.
The Fortunatos have been able to incorporate several architectural design elements that capitalize on the abundance of natural sunlight. Besides the solar panels that generate heat, long overhangs on the roof act as a natural umbrella when the sun is higher in the summer months. The phase-change drywall installed throughout employs a “catch and release” use of natural sunlight, absorbing the heat when temperatures are high and releasing it when temperatures drop.
Excess water from bathing and doing laundry is redirected straight to their landscape via a “laundry to landscape” irrigation system.
The Fortunatos are committed to sustainable living in the products they use as well, including shampoo, conditioner, and laundry soap. They choose products with less additives and salts, which protects the family from exposure to harmful chemicals. And when Carter and his friends get together at the house, they are often found doing flips from one JAXX Bean Bag to another, which are made from leftover foam.
“I feel healthier living in this home,” said Monica, an occupational therapist. What continues to inspire her, she said, are all the guests who look inside and find motivation in all the green renovations they see.