& HOME BUILDING
Do you want to live out your life in an airtight, artificial trap of a living space? Your own, inner human nature will tell you if you desire an open and breezy yet physically secure space; if you’re more productive in a naturally lit workspace; if earth colors calm you; if lush greenery adds aliveness and a sense of wellbeing; if certain geometric shapes reflect your personality, etc. Your experiences also shape what you like and the styles that you think make a home, a home. Listen, close your eyes and imagine. You’ll be surprised to find that much of what you desire can be done in a sustainable, environmentally conscious manner.
We recently spoke with David Hertz, artist, architect and environmental designer; a man that can make your home remodeling or building dreams come true. David Hertz, AIA, is Founder and President of Syndesis, Inc., an architectural, design manufacturing firm specializing in creating sustainable strategies and environmental products. Syndesis has expertise in the design construction of residential and commercial buildings, product design, furniture design, material development and manufacturing and environmental consulting.
David has extensive experience in the practice and incorporation of sustainable and resource efficient design principles in his contemporary built work. His architecture is often recognized as incorporating natural ventilation and natural light to the maximum extent possible. Architectural projects have focused primarily on custom residential homes with specific expertise in climate responsive buildings, including David’s own home in Venice, in the coastal zone and hillsides of Malibu, Northern California and the Oregon coast.
“David Hertz's design leadership continues to delight and inform us all - an inspiration in how to be green both ways.”
- Amory B. Lovins, CEO, Rocky Mountain Institute
David’s company is also noted for the development of Syndecrete, an innovative, pre-cast, light weight concrete architectural surface material which includes reclaimed fly ash (from coal-fired facilities) and incorporates recycled/reclaimed aggregates from society’s waste stream. Syndecrete can be used for a wide variety of applications from walls, flooring, furniture, to bathtub basins, bathroom/kitchen sinks and countertops among others.
He recently licensed Syndecrete through Interface Inc., the largest carpet floor covering manufacturer in the world. They were inspired to do an aboutface by David’s client and mentor, Paul Hawken, author of Natural Capitalism and The Ecology of Commerce. Interface very seriously looked at “what they take, what they make, what they waste… full audit, full disclosures and admitted they were polluters and knew it.” David says that this company is a poster child for change, and is one of the few leading American companies that really embraces new ideals.
“I adore David. He is one of the best practicing architects who truly understands materials' cycle, from the ground up. No one understands it better that he does. David has a great eye, sense of color and design, and he is really fun to work with."
- Paul Hawken, Author
Approachable, friendly, down-to-earth, ethical and passionate about his work, David wants to “bring the craft back to building design.” He could be reasonably considered not only an artist, but a multidisciplinary guru. With a vast and sturdy knowledge-base of environmental concepts and materials, he is well respected in his field. And sadly, in Los Angeles, there are few architects like him.
Looking at the earthen landscape and working with the existing natural elements is what he does. He uses the natural surroundings as the studio and envisions housing design as art that is derived from, and works in harmony with, the landscape and climate.
You do not have to be an ‘environmentalist.’ David has all the resources you need. He not only designs your home, he has the skills to smoothly orchestrate contractors, subcontractors, vendors/suppliers and needed consultants of any kind. You name it, David can tell you how to make it all happen.
Being open yet secure; being stylish yet functional and energy efficient; being contemporary and luxurious yet humble and less consumptive. These aren’t really oxymorons. Being “green” in home remodeling and design does not mean you have to sacrifice comfort or style or luxury. We’re not talking about composting toilets here. But if you want to be a more conscious, conservative consumer, then taking a few key things into consideration will have you off to a great start.
First, David can help you hire an experienced demolition contractor that can salvage reusable materials such as doors, plumbing fixtures, appliances, and wood for other projects, businesses and organizations.
Whether you’re building new or adding on to an existing home, what natural elements can you take advantage of and bring into the design of the home? What about the direction/movement of the sun? How can natural lighting be derived from this natural course, how can it be used to warm the house, where should solar panels be positioned, where could skylights best be placed? Do breezes flow through the property in a predictable manner and how can one best utilize the natural breezes to cool the spaces in the home? Even if it’s a city lot, with relatively no “natural” surrounding left, these can all be taken into consideration with many elements revived or returned to the area through your design.
When it comes to building materials, environmentally conscious also means less toxic. Studies show that humans already carry chemical loads in their bodies and we’re learning more everyday about the animals, even those in the ocean, that are the warehouses/physiological receptacles of our manmade industrial chemicals. And if you have children, it’s wise and reasonable to seek out alternatives without the toxic fixative chemicals commonly used in wood flooring, carpeting, wall paint and even fabric window coverings.
Until the major industries change, your consumer choices will help drive and increase environmentally minded building materials. There are a number of major alternative construction items that, as a consumer, allow you to vote with your dollars. You should consider all of the following: Wood (including ceiling beams, flooring, decking, even furniture) from sustainably harvested and managed forests certified by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC); reclaimed wood from old barns, bridges, homes; less toxic paint and sealants; wall construction that is less consumptive of timber such as straw bale, rammed earth and poured concrete; formaldehyde-free floor coverings made from alternatives to synthetic/petroleum based carpets, such as hemp, wool, jute, sisal; radiant floor heating systems under concrete; residential solar systems (remember the federal and state incentives can give you huge savings); organic cotton and hemp window coverings, bedding, towels etc.; indoor/outdoor native, water conserving plants, trees and grasses; Dept. of Energy’s Energy Star rated appliances, lighting and other energy saving products; and perhaps even water reclamation, or rain-catching systems and composting could be added to your wish list. As a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, David has access to a nationwide and local network of ethical, established manufacturers and suppliers of these kinds of materials and products.
This isn’t just jargon. Many of our Advisory Board members have been pushing sustainable design and building concepts for years, developing resources and guidelines and working together with small and large businesses in order to transform the building industry. If you think about, it some of these things are not “new” concepts by any means. Many natural resources have been around for decades, but society and industry have been too immersed in artificially fabricated, chemically-laden and toxic “innovations” over time. David gets back to the basics with mindfulness.
One of David’s most recent projects was renovating the cozy, new home of Actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus and husband, Executive Producer/Writer Brad Hall. David said that after seeing the design and construction elements of his own home in Venice, they hired him. Sustainable ideas and environmentally conscious techniques were able to be meshed with their desire to maintain the characteristics of the home. The coastal climate of the area north of Santa Barbara played a major role in the energy efficient design with elements such as: solar panels for electricity, hot water and radiant floor heating; breezeways; eight foot electric window skylights; sustainable bamboo flooring (as seen in photo) and sustainable hardwood bridges.
“David works to synthesize space, materials and indoor-outdoor comfort that is ONLY possible with his clever integration of environmentally conscious systems (e.g. solar, recycled/sustainable materials everywhere possible) and artful design. A sustainable house is a guilt-free house, which naturally makes it all the more comfortable.”
- Brad Hall
It is possible to build a second home, to build a new addition, to even build a new business and reduce your ecological footprint on this planet. David can show you successful examples and tell you how it can become a reality for you.
Written by: Katie Garrison, Environmental Media Association
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