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Published July 4th, 2012
Sustainable Award- Winning House Feels Like Home
By Cathy Tyson
View from the cozy and private front sitting area through the great room to the terraced back yard with bocce ball court. Adirondack chairs made from recycled plastic. Photos Karen Drinkwater

When Karen Maggio's youngest son Dominic went off to college, she and her husband Al stuck a 'For Sale' sign in the front yard of the Lafayette home they had been living in for 20 years, and bought a 1950s home across town with plans to transform it into the "sustainable California Dream of the future." Thus began a year-long journey though the perils of the permit process, re-purposing everything from towel bars to cardboard, living in a construction zone that ultimately turned into her light and airy, sustainable - and the City of Lafayette's Green Award-winning - home-sweet-home.
"It was risky, and harder than I thought - personal, emotional," said Maggio. "Now I feel physically lighter." She attributes a large chunk of the mental remodel diet on simply getting rid of 20 years worth of accumulated stuff. "I have no regrets - I just love my new home."
It was completed on time and on budget - despite a few expensive surprises, namely unexpected foundation work. The contractor was able to save a bit here and there, and the overall project was downsized a bit - the master bathroom and yoga studio will have to wait for Phase II.
After a few bumps in the road, the Maggios purchased a 1951 home on a terrific lot in one of Lafayette's best neighborhoods in January 2011 - construction and landscaping were mostly finished a year later. "It took longer to get the permits than to do the actual remodel," Maggio said. As a five-term planning commissioner, "I got no slack." She explained that rules were interpreted to the fullest extent possible.
The design team that worked on the Ecohouse remodel won the City of Lafayette's Green Award for sustainability in April of this year. The team included local architect Ken Hertel AIA, designer Michael Brisdon Bornn, CID and Mike Richardson of Altura Construction, and of course, Maggio herself.
As the Founder and Principal of POM Resource Group, Maggio knows all about sustainable construction; she is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Accredited Professional, or LEED AP, with substantial experience in planning and facilities management. Because sustainability is the focus of her work, selecting paint, insulation, low E dual pane windows and bamboo floors came naturally. And this was the second project by Hertel for the Maggios. He was the architect who transformed their ranch house 10 years ago into a family-size arts and crafts style home across town.
Although there were plywood countertops initially, Richardson was able to get the place substantially complete so that Maggio and her grown kids could celebrate Christmas dinner. Her brother, Brisdon Bornn, in addition to being a fantastic LA designer and carpenter, happened to be in the right place at the right time and was able to obtain an entire showroom kitchen from Scavolini, who happened to be changing the showroom for the season, complete with appliances and cabinets. "I owe him big time," Maggio said.
The final step in the process was having the home rated by Build It Green. Points are awarded for integrating sustainable design, energy and water savings, using recycled and renewable materials and more. Larger scale buildings are rated by a program from the United States Green Building Council called LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
Surprising outcomes of the process included ridiculously low PG&E bills - last month cost Maggio a whopping $42 - the satisfaction of a job well done with everything she ever wanted, and thoughtful new neighbors who have welcomed her with open arms. One handy, creative neighbor even made coasters from slices of a tree that was removed from her backyard.
It was in February, Maggio said, that the place just felt like home; at that point she was all unpacked, and the last few remaining items were completed.
Maggio hopes to make the process more streamlined for future green remodelers, explaining that homeowners already pay a premium for sustainable materials, and we should encourage and incentivize the process, especially for smaller projects like hers that benefit Lafayette and the environment.
You can read more about the Lafayette Ecohouse Project on the POM website at: www.pomrg.com.

Functional kitchen with custom breakfast bar, made by the homeowner's brother.

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