Rebuilt San Bruno homes relying less on PG&E 

click to enlarge Reconstruction: Gustavo Gomez is rebuilding his San Bruno home with elements that will decrease his dependence on energy. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The Examiner
  • Reconstruction: Gustavo Gomez is rebuilding his San Bruno home with elements that will decrease his dependence on energy.

When Kathryn Chow’s home in San Bruno’s Crestmoor neighborhood is rebuilt, the new home will use less of the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. gas that destroyed her old one when the pipeline running under it exploded.

Appliances and fixtures designed to lower heat and water usage will be installed in Chow’s new home, and the roof and windows will be oriented in a way that will provide natural heat, light and shading.

The homes being built by Chow and her neighbors are subject to California’s new green building code, which requires new houses to save on water, energy and construction waste. Additional upgrades are mandated by new city green building rules. The city has hired a consultant to work with residents who lost homes in the explosion to ensure their properties are as green as they can be, and is developing a green incentive program to help pay for the upgrades.

“It’s a bunch of little things,” Chow’s architect, Renzo Nakata, said of the home design’s water- and energy-saving features. “But there’s a lot of them and they all kind of add up.”

Even as they cope with the challenges of rebuilding their homes and their lives, some of the San Bruno homeowners have embraced the opportunity to go green, architects designing some of the new homes said.

Architect Jerry Winges, who is designing new homes for the Gomez and Zastrow families, is working with the city’s consultant to determine which green features can be incorporated into the homes. So far, Winges plans to use foam insulation and more-efficient appliances and low-water-use plants. The Gomez home will have a “little solarium” in the front that will offer heat, he said.

City staffers have told architects and homeowners about a proposed incentive program that could help pay for green home features. Community Development Director Aaron Aknin said staffers are letting homeowners know about the program now so they don’t miss an opportunity to build green.

As excited as some may be about the new green features, funding could be key to putting some of them into place, since the homeowners’ insurance might not cover them, architects said.

“It’s now in the vocabulary of everyone, so everyone pays lip service to it,” said San Francisco architect Andre Rothblatt, who’s working with Betti and Bill Magoolaghan to repair their Claremont Drive home with sustainable materials. “But when it comes to making that decision, the bottom line to still think about is whether it’s cost-effective and whether it’s attractive.”

While some of the greener home features are more expensive than those that use more energy, Nakata said Chow sees them as a long-term investment that will yield environmental benefits — and savings — as energy costs rise.

“Kathryn has always approached this as, this is a long-term home, not just for her but her family down the line,” Nakata said.

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Michele Ellson

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