Greene and Greene House Renovation Is the Antithesis of Green

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Image Credit Build it Green

Greene and Greene's Darling House in Claremont, California is a recognized historic home that was truly green in the way houses are supposed to be. Jeff Book writes in the National Trust for Historic Preservation's journal Preservation:

Their designs combined simplicity and refinement, celebrating natural materials and motifs while exhibiting an intimate awareness of the landscape. Outstretched eaves provided shade, ample windows captured views and ensured cross-ventilation, and broad terraces and sleeping porches embraced the mild California climate.... In many ways, the brothers' California houses embodied "environmental design" long before the concept came into vogue.

Jeff Book then describes a recent renovation, and controversy ensues.

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Image credit Greene and Greene Virtual Archives

First of all the plan had to be changed. "Despite the addition of later bathrooms and unencumbered kitchen space, the arrangement of spaces held limited appeal for present-day residents." And it wasn't big enough, so it got pumped up 30% or so from 2,960 to 3,962 square feet. The 1921 garage was hauled away and replaced with a three car garage.

According to BuilditGreen:

Seventy-five percent of the windows were replaced with new custom double-pane windows to improve comfort and energy efficiency while maintaining the historic look. Because of their historical significance, the original windows were carefully removed and are being stored on-site.

Back in Preservation, Jeff Book writes about how careful they are, as they replace Greene and Greene light fixtures with fakes, faux-paint ceilings and are careful to recycle the materials they take out instead of shipping them to the dump.

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Image Credit Build it Green

Needless to say, the preservationist commenters were outraged, calling the project:

A train wreck of a project masquerading as historic preservation. Not only is this project mistakenly portrayed as a restoration project, accolades are given to the project for being "green" - for "recycling stuff that would otherwise go into landfills", as mitigation for installation of "all the new material" put into the house, replacing irreplaceable historic fabric.

This definitely was not a restoration. They threw original doors and window into the dumpsters! Jeff Book has no idea what he's writing about, and the owners and architect are clueless, they having touted this, all along, as an "historic restoration," when in fact, it is a damaging travesty to this important house. They even tore down the 1927 Henry Greene-designed garage!

There was so much that could have been learned about how Greene and Greene dealt with climate in a world without air conditioning, how "cross-ventilation, and broad terraces and sleeping porches embraced the mild California climate." Instead we have an insulated and double-glazed and enlarged house with new everything, from fixtures to fittings to finishings to air conditioning system. We learn nothing other than how to turn a living, breathing Greene and Greene house into a sealed up modern McMansion. That is the antithesis of green.

I would love to know what Richard Moe thinks of this house.