You may have seen mention of this by now: San Diego County has its first LEED platinum-status structure. LEED, the industry measure of environmental friendliness in design and energy stewardship, is a designation bestowed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The first San Diego structure to be designated “platinum,” the highest level on the scale, is the Ranch House at Del Sur. That’s the welcome center and stopping point for visitors and potential homebuyers at the 3,050-home subdivision north of State Route 56, and will eventually be the common recreation room for the subdivision’s residents.

But, obviously, a structure like the Ranch House has a hefty price tag. I wanted to find out how much. To find out, I spoke to Bill Dumka, senior vice president for Black Mountain Ranch LLC, Del Sur’s master developer. He said the company divided the budget for the Ranch House among its marketing, site development (landscape) and infrastructure departments.

I visited Del Sur in February, and the 3,000-square foot Ranch House was, I thought, really cool. The developers brought in some extreme elements: timber from a 125-year-old barn in Pennsylvania and wood from a Portland pier, for two. They used sunflower husks in the countertops and blue-jeans-turned-insulation throughout the house.

Dumka wouldn’t release the cost for the whole ranch house, but he estimated $1.5 million to $2 million for the hard construction costs. That doesn’t include the furnishings or landscaping, but does include the beams from Oregon and Pennsylvania, and gives us a ballpark of the cost of the building. He said it works out to about $500 to $700 per square foot, the cost of a “very expensive custom house,” he said “and that’s basically what it is.”

But keep in mind, he said, that the expense wasn’t just to achieve the LEED platinum status. The novelty items, though recycled, are more for show than for conservation. The estimated additional costs to implementing LEED standards into individual homes is about 2 to 5 percent, he said — a cost that’s usually more manageable if you implement it when you’re building a house, rather than retrofitting an existing house.

Other green elements include:

  • Photovoltaic (solar) cells on the roof.
  • Access to wind-generated energy.
  • Weather-based irrigation (a satellite sprinkler system that designates.
  • A porous concrete driveway — helps mitigate storm-water runoff.

Homebuyers among the 2,500 market-rate homes are encouraged to have those elements incorporated into their homes.

Last summer, I found some interesting perspectives on building to LEED certifications in San Diego:

San Diego resident Chuck Angyal, who was on the founding board of directors for the United States Green Building Council, said the region has a long way to go before it catches up with some other metropolitan areas.

“We’re way behind the curve as far as I’m concerned,” Angyal said. “It hasn’t reached any sort of critical mass here.”

Other LEED news in the region: The San Diego Housing Commission’s new office building on Broadway in San Diego was designated LEED Silver. The office building is part of Smart Corner — that live-work-public transit development on Broadway in downtown San Diego.

From an SDHC release:

[The] building’s “green” features include energy-efficient heating, cooling and water systems, natural lighting, and low-emission carpets and paints. Construction materials included recycled content and sustainable resources, such as bamboo wood. The agency has also partnered with CB Richard Ellis and OneSource for “green” janitorial services that include environmentally friendly cleaning products, equipment and processes.


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