LivingHomes prefabs fulfill desire for design and passion for green living
Q & A with Steve Glenn, CEO of LivingHomes
LivingHomes, founded by Steve Glenn, built the first home in the United States to be certified LEED Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council. LivingHomes uses factory production, or prefab, construction to ensure the quality of its homes and reduce construction waste, building time and costs. The company is located in Santa Monica, Calif.
ProudGreenHome.com spoke with Steve during the 2010 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Chicago. Steve was gracious enough to spend a few minutes talking with ProudGreenHome.com before his presentation during the Residential Summit.
PGH: Briefly, what is unique about LivingHomes as a homebuilder?
SG: We work with architects to create standardized and custom-built homes integrating with an extremely comprehensive environmental program and use factory production to build our home better, quicker, faster, cheaper and smarter.
PGH: Who are your customers?
SG: Our customers are the cultural creatives. They value health, sustainability, buy Michael Graves-designed products and likely drink red wine. They buy furniture from Design within Reach, drive a Prius and buy organic food at Costco and Whole Foods.
PGH: Are your customers motivated by design or by having a green home?
SG: First and foremost they're motivated by design. We're not looking for people whose focus is the smallest ecological footprint possible. We're probably not the best solution. The best solution is probably taking an existing building and dealing with that.
If you want a new home, straw bales or maybe building underground, those will probably have a slightly smaller impact than the homes we build.
We're targeting people who really do want better design in the homes. The problem with straw bale and underground homes is they don't typically meet the lifestyle needs that many people have. They can't support big open spaces and they tend to not have a lot of light. They're just not as livable. First and foremost we're trying to make homes very livable.
PGH: What are the advantages of prefab construction for your homes?
SG: If you don't have high-quality construction, a home can have leaks both with wind and water, you can have contamination and impact durability if you have to replace materials. Then suddenly you have a lot more waste and increase your ecological footprint because of the materials you have to replace.
We inspect the factories we work with to make sure they're doing things the right way. We inspect the home site. If you're a builder, you want to have a well-built product, you don't want to have a lot of call backs from homeowners.
PGH: What is your approach to design?
SG: We have two architects we work with, Ray Kappe and Kieran Timberlakeand, they have done standardized homes for us. We have done custom floorplans based on those homes but the aesthetic that those guys have done for us, that's what we do. We're not custom architects. You can't come to us and say "I want French Mediterranean or Tudor."
PGH: How do you design and build homes to meet the LEED standards?
SG: We have a palette of things we put in. All but one of the homes we've done to date have been certified LEED Platinum. We have 10 Platinum homes. And three more that we think will get there. We have a set of finishes and environmental systems and fixtures that we like to use. Some clients want us to go off our standards for certain things and we will. We try to go with what we know works from an aesthetic and functionality standpoint and an environmental standpoint.
PGH: What's next for LivingHomes?
SG: We're working very hard on a line of more affordable homes that hopefully we'll be able to introduce soon. Many of the materials we use are no more expensive than non-sustainable materials and many are available at home stores. It's not like everything we do is high end.
For a slideshow about a recent LivingHomes project in Newport Beach, Calif., click here.
(Photos courtesy of LivingHomes/Steve Mayoral)
Gary Wollenhaupt is an experienced writer and editor, with a background as a daily newspaper reporter as well as corporate and agency public relations and marketing. He is constantly looking for affordable green upgrades to make to his home in eastern Kentucky.www