Sustainable Design Solutions

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A local architect is LEED-ing the way for stylish environmental design.

By Somer Flaherty

Sustainable Design Solutions

Looking back on one of his most recent works—a project that took two years to build—architect Horst Noppenberger of Laguna’s Horst Architects beams with pride and passion. Known as the Gaddam residence, the project took 15 months of design work and is set to become one of the most sustainable homes in Laguna Beach.

“I find it more interesting when a project is meaningful,” Horst says. “My clients came to me with a vision to build a home that was very sustainable, and it was really a dream of the wife’s to have a home that would be extremely energy efficient.”

Horst has always been an ardent proponent of sustainable design, but this was the first time his firm was working toward Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for a home—in particular, he was aiming to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest level of certification, LEED Platinum. Here, we catch up with the architect to find out more about how to make homes greener.

Laguna Beach Magazine: In Orange County there are only a handful of homes that have achieved or are designed to achieve LEED Platinum status. What makes each home different?

Horst Noppenberger: Every choice has an environmental story—whether it’s the Forest Stewardship Council-certified flooring, low-VOC paints, dual-pane insulated glass windows and doors [or] drought-tolerant landscaping.

LBM: What role does energy efficiency play in the design of the Gaddam residence?

HN: The home incorporates solar panels, hydronic radiant floor heating and a high-efficiency water heater.

LBM: What are some sustainable elements that can be incorporated in a home with enough planning during the design phase?

HN: Cross-ventilation, which can be helped by having a courtyard in a home and eliminates much of the need for air conditioning. Choosing the right materials can also help to heat the home. With the Gaddam residence, we used concrete walls that contain 30 percent coal ash to utilize thermal mass to help store the sun’s heat throughout the day and release it at night.

LBM: What other sustainable elements can we incorporate in a remodel or new build?

HN: A planted green roof can help reduce rainwater runoff and also provide a really effective means of insulation. With preplanning you can easily incorporate it in a roof’s design; with a remodeled home it is more expensive to incorporate, but can usually be done.

LBM: Not many architects have created a LEED Platinum designed home—what was the biggest challenge?

HN: There is a lot of documentation you have to go through during the entire build, including both the design and construction phase. We worked closely with a Green Rater, [LEED-certified person] who provides the verification services. The Green Rater is involved throughout the design phase and throughout the construction process.

It’s Easy Being Green

The availability of earth-friendly products is catching up to the demand.

By Somer Flaherty

Creating eco-friendly living spaces feels good and it isn’t as hard as you may think. Simple choices—all available locally—can help create a healthy environment for you and your family. LBM

Sustainable Design Solutions
Organic cotton mattress by Royal Pedic, available at Jack Thomas at Home, Laguna Beach (949-715-0026;
Sustainable Design Solutions
100% Recycled plastic planter, available at Room and Board, Santa Ana (714-549-5995;
Sustainable Design Solutions
Sprout Chair made of bamboo and Forest Stewardship Council and Rainforest Alliance Certified materials, available at Von Hemert Interiors, Laguna Beach (949-494-6551;
Sustainable Design Solutions
Sustainable wood coffee table by Manulution, available at Green Cube, Laguna Beach (949-494-1550;


Sustainable Design Solutions
Sustainable ebony wood flooring, available at Eco Surfaces, Laguna Beach (949-715-2444;


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