A Kahala home goes green and without sacrificing seamless sophistication.

When architect Jeffrey Long began the process of creating the first LEED gold-certified home along Kahala Avenue, he knew it was going to entail much more than simply window dressing the project with environmentally sensitive components.

“Building green is more than just choosing green finish materials. It requires a more holistic approach,” explains Long, whose Design + Build company, Longhouse, needed to review the entire building and development process, and “apply certain benchmark elements in order to meet the stair-stepped levels of LEED certification.”

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy Environmental Design. Created by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED’s building program certifies new and existing projects that incorporate strategies aimed at improving performance, increasing energy and water efficiency, reducing carbon emissions, thoughtfully utilizing our natural resources and improving indoor environmental quality.

The first step to this project’s LEED gold certification began with the donation of all the materials of the site’s former 1950s board and batten home to Re-use Hawai`i: a nonprofit organization working to reduce waste through building material reuse and recycling.

Long invited groups to experience each successive design step, which integrated LEED principals into the home. His team selected natural and renewable materials that were sourced from responsibly managed forests and materials that minimized or eliminated the out-gassing of toxins that naturally occur in aging construction materials. They chose energy-efficient lighting, ENERGY STAR appliances and ceiling fans, insulated glass, natural day lighting, electric skylights to vent heat and an electric car charger.

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Views of the home Long developed with a partner as a speculative business venture with the vision of building a home that both enhanced the ocean-view location architecturally and brought to Kahala one of its first LEED gold-certified homes.

Long incorporated deep overhangs to provide shading and minimize heat gain, a low-slope roof for incorporation of photovoltaic panels to collect solar energy, and solar water heating to augment the electric water heater.

“All throughout the process, we invited service groups and businesses to review the process, and [to] become invested in the efforts and rewards that certification brought,” says Long, who says the most inspired group of guests were the elementary aged kids we showed the home to. “[They] were very able to see a full-scale ‘laboratory’ model. They were invited to handle the materials we selected, which gave him a much greater sense of what was needed to achieve the LEED results. They now view the world through the lens of social sustainability, and support the ongoing evolution and efforts through their school and individually of recycling, reusing, incorporating natural materials and the overall reduction of pollution.”

Long sought to enhance the property’s ocean-view location by creating a new entry point to the lot, which is angled on a hillside between Kahala Avenue and the ocean-side Kulamanu Street below.

“[The] original street access from the lower south street level was changed to the upper north side on Kahala Avenue,” Long says. “The old design was a walk-up from a detached carport, which presented access problems and inclement weather related challenges. The new upper street Kahala Avenue access allowed the house to be elevated above the old location, which provided an enhanced front entrance with direct ocean views.”

The home now enjoys an attached garage, which gives easy interior access from the street to the new upper level kitchen, living room and master bedroom with the added bonus of more guest parking on the street. Concrete walls and sound insulation on the Kahala Avenue side mitigates road noise. Placement of the home on the lot also takes advantage of the proper solar orientation and natural trade winds.

“As an architect, I am typically intrigued by the design elements of a home, but in this house, we had the unique opportunity to actually measure directly the environmental response to our design choices, and thereby implement standards of a new sustainable and energy efficient model. Our design solutions now meant something tangible, were measurable and often times beyond an aesthetic.”

Long points out that in Hawai`i, our energy expenses are among the highest in the country, yet we have access to some of the most abundant natural resources that could minimize our fossil fuel use.

He believes that residential architecture in Hawai`i is in full transition mode to adapt to a more energy efficient model that architecturally responds to the environment and integrates the finer elements of LEED principals.

“The hurdles ahead include the reinterpretation of the current county ordinances, policies and residential covenants that were developed long before energy efficiency and sustainability was a critical factor in architectural and environmental design. With the new language of ‘sustainability,’ we put aside many of the traditional architectural influences, and approached the design process with how the architectural design responds to the environment first.”

All photos courtesy Long & Associates, AIA, Inc.