Photography by Tim McCarthy and David Kramer
After the disastrous Northridge earthquake in 1995, home developer Mike Gottlieb began purchasing severely damaged properties and renovating them, adding considerable outside space and focusing on greener construction. He purchased The Vicino House (on Vicino Avenue in Pacific Palisades, California) in 2003. Gottlieb’s methods typically involve gutting a house, adding on square footage, and completely redoing the interior in a seamless yet eco-friendly way.
“Many developers maximize the square footage of the house while taking away from the amount of usable outdoor land. They feel they get paid for square footage inside; but I do not work that way. My business model and belief system is that I get paid for evoking a feeling and an experience, both inside and out,” says Gottlieb.
For the same reasons consumers may stay at large luxury hotels, “big” is not necessarily better. Gottlieb prefers to have the interior of his houses relate to the exterior, and nearly all of the rooms will have a balcony or flowing access to the outdoors. Also, with balmy Southern California weather, Gottlieb says it makes good sense to capitalize on the benefits of an outdoorsy feeling even when you’re technically inside. He says, “I try to reutilize as much of the existing foundation and framing as possible, re-enforcing what’s already there and not wasting any materials, making it as green and as ‘recycled’ as possible.” Gottlieb also redesigns the house based upon the customized framing style. In a home such as The Vicino House, which was originally built in the 1950s, he worked with a large A-frame in the front, which required “more of a farm-type house feeling.”
(Bedroom) A Room with a View
“My favorite parts of this house are the amazing ocean views, and the openness from front to back, which ensures visitors are able to see 180 degrees all around,” says Gottlieb. “I also love the waterfall in the courtyard in the front entryway.” There is also a “great room” in the forefront of the house which connects the entryway, the living room and the open kitchen. Better yet: Two solar thermal panels provide 70 percent of the domestic hot water in the home.
In developing other homes, especially for LEED accreditation, Gottlieb looks for the perfect ensemble of players who are wholly devoted to green living, much like he is. “Form meets function, and that’s what really brings a house to life,” he says. The players, all vigilantly selected, who share and help orchestrate his vision consist of an interior designer, several contractors and architects. “For this house, I worked with an incredible team, including Tim McCarthy of Forma Design Group, Carl Thibault of Thibault Construction, and Kelby Bryant of Kelby Bryant Design,” Gottlieb says.
(Above) Living Room
Throughout the home, low and zero VOC paints and adhesives were used to provide a healthy environment. Expansive indoor-outdoor transitions provide natural light ventilation.
After living and working in Brazil for several years, Gottlieb moved into the Vicino House in 2005, and eventually began his green renovation in 2008 with this “A-list” environmental team. Today, the four-bedroom house holds 3,000 square feet (nearly doubled from the original space) and has achieved the very strictest Platinum LEED certification.
Other standout LEED characteristics of The Vicino House:
• Gottlieb and his team avoided building with volatile compounds, so the floors are radium-based, which does not create dust or mold. “This is a great house for people who have allergies because no dust ever collects,” says Gottlieb.
• Walls of open glass help heat the house in winter, and the pretty hardwood floors are all made of sustainable woods approved by the Forest Products Commission (FPC). The FPC ensures economic, environmental, and social benefits, such as countering carbon dioxide omissions, reversing land degradation, and restoring biodiversity.
• The Vicino House was built with recycled concrete counters, custom LED lighting, bio-lime plaster walls, and radiant floor heating. (Radiant floor heating is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through the ducts. Again, lack of moving air is advantageous to people suffering from asthma and severe allergies.)
• The center island in the kitchen and all the countertops are made of recycled glass, which glow faintly at night like beacons.
• There are low-flow efficiency faucets, fixtures, and toilets throughout the home.
• The Vicino House is tightly insulated with bio-based blown-in insulation. This means an expanding soy foam (non-toxic) has hermetically sealed the house.
• High-efficiency windows maintain clean air indoors; and only low- or no-VOC paints, sealants, and non-toxic glues were used inside.
• High-efficiency irrigation with climate sensors reduces most water demand outdoors.
• Eco-friendly faux grass is used on all the roof decks (for the dogs) which necessitate considerably less water.
• Permanent erosion controls will protect the adjacent hillside and reduce wasteful water runoff.
Aside from his abiding passion for building for a better environment for homeowners, Gottlieb is also involved in local dog rescue, and four pampered pooches presently live in the luxury of The Vicino House. Currently, the Gottlieb household includes Lucy (the Labradoodle), a young pit bull, a three-legged dog found injured on the streets of Brazil, and a shy foster dog. Gottlieb actively donates money to other types of charities as well, including one in Africa that provides potable water to poor villages.
(Family on Deck)
Enjoying the view from the upper deck.
(Garden with chairs) Lower Deck
Visible green features include louvered window over-hangs for sunshading, light-colored path surfaces, drought tolerant and native plants on the hillside. All south-facing glazing is dual panel, low-E and argon filled to reduce solar heat gain.