VISTA — In an age of spiraling energy costs, the 4,700-square-foot Vista home built to specification by contractors Dave and Janette Kimmel is a showcase of smart and green construction techniques that will probably become standard in the near future.
The sprawling ranch-style home boasts a huge common area, two apartment-style master bedrooms and several children’s bedrooms. There is a walk-in wine cabinet and the whole house is wired for music controlled from a central panel. The backyard is lushly landscaped with a waterfall cascading into a stream that empties into a swimming pond.
Elegant Efficiency, which is what the Kimmels call their home, has walls made with structural insulated panels, or SIP, made from compressed wood and plastic foam. The result is a house that maintains its temperature better than the average stick-frame home.
“We don’t even have air conditioning,” Kimmel said. “It’s wired for it, but we’ve never installed it. It’s just a very moderate space.”
All of the lights in the home are low-voltage bulbs, and the Kimmels have oriented them by task, so any portion of the house can be lit without wasting energy. The windows are double paned to provide better insulation. An array of photovoltaic solar panels mounted on trellises in the backyard provide electricity.
But the proof in the pudding is the electric bill, and the Kimmels have plenty of proof. The monthly bill for the large house averages under $50.
In another nod to the environment, the floor is made from farmed tiger wood. The fireplace and stones that line the stream outside all came from their own property, salvaged when the site was graded for construction. The pond is filtered biologically, and there are fish and plants living in it.
“We don’t use chemicals on the property,” Kimmel said. “Endangered bird species have a place to hang out.”
When the Kimmels designed the house in 2002, the profusion of resources for building efficiently now available to homeowners did not exist. Kimmel said he could have gone even further than he did had he known then what he does now.
“There’s a lot of really good green aspects to it, but we didn’t consciously go in saying we’re going to make this a Platinum LEED certified house because we didn’t know what that was,” Kimmel said. LEED is a set of standards for determining the environmental sustainability of a structure.
In addition to being a conservationist’s dream, the Kimmel home is designed to be a multi-generational home with full handicapped access and amenities. There are oversized bathrooms and reinforced walls that can be equipped with bracings.
“It had to accommodate a sandwich family, meaning the aging older parents and the teenagers and us,” Janette Kimmel said. “These types of properties were hard to find in the past.”
Just as importantly, she said, the house was made to be a sanctuary for her friends and family. The Kimmels do a lot of entertaining, and often times, guests find it difficult to go back to work after a fun weekend.
“There’s a lot of Monday illness around here,” Dave Kimmel said.
Locals interested in seeing Elegant Efficiency are in luck. The Kimmel house is one of four beautifully appointed homes on display in the 22nd annual Holiday Homes Tour organized by the Vista Community Clinic to support its Kare for Kids fund. The fund supports children of the working poor who earn too much to qualify for public assistance but too little to afford health insurance.
“The economic crisis has affected our local economy and community health,” Jenny Jones, the clinic’s spokesperson, said. “VCC’s patient load is already up 10 percent over last year, which is double our normal growth rate. The fund provides 11,000 North County kids with health care and this will be needed more than ever in 2009.”
The Holiday Home Tour will take place Dec. 7. Tickets are available for $20 online at www.vistacommunityclinic.org.