Progressive Building Practices


Often, there’s a moment when we see a connection between the health of the planet and our own choices. And that can be magic. It doesn’t always come in the form of dramatic change. Every adjustment is a step in the right direction. At Carmel Building & Design, we know that the way we—and the building industry as a whole—approach our craft has a significant impact on carbon emissions and consequent climate change. And we have it within our power to turn things around. That’s why we are being ever more aggressive in our thinking, and our building practices, about how we respond to new regulations, technologies and increasing consumer demand for healthier, better performing homes. Aligned with California’s climate action goals, a central focus is to reduce the energy demands of the homes we build and remodel to the point where the remaining energy needs can be met with on-site renewable sources. And because we have the know-how, resources, materials, technologies and growing body of experience, there’s just no good reason not to.

What are Progressive Building Practices?

Progressive building practices in a nutshell mean building in a way that not only creates a better quality, much more energy efficient and comfortable home, but also reduces our overall negative impact on the environment. Our practices always include the basics…creating an airtight structure and thoroughly insulating, employing heat recovery ventilation systems to provide continuous fresh filtered air, utilizing strategies like advanced framing and window placement for passive light and temperature control, using reclaimed or recycled materials when possible, and choosing finishes with very low or no VOCs. It’s a matter of thinking through the project, understanding your vision, and moving forward in a way that improves the home’s performance.


We have many projects that meet the standards of Passive House, Zero Net Energy, Living Building Challenge, LEED, and other green building programs.


To learn more about our Progressive Building Practices, explore the blogs below, call us at (831) 626-8606 or send an email to



Why build sustainably? There’s just no good reason not to.

Building in a way that not only creates a better quality, much more energy efficient and comfortable home, but also reduces our overall negative impact on the environment, just makes sense to us. MORE


A whole lot of change is coming on.

While I’ll spare you the copious details, it’s important to understand state mandated energy reduction standards and how they impact upcoming changes in the building code. There are changes looming that significantly impact new residential construction as well as extensive remodels. Rules addressing commercial structures are not far behind, followed by requirements for existing structures. MORE


California’s all renewable energy future – introducing Passive House Plus and Premium

If you’ve been puzzled by the proliferation of ‘net,’ ‘nearly’ and ‘almost ready’ Zero Energy definitions and standards and have wondered just how net or nearly they truly are, take heart. The Passive House Institute (PHI) has introduced an equitable assessment of energy use to help guide us toward the 100% renewable energy future our State—and planet—must rapidly achieve. MORE


Just me, thinking out loud

Anyone who has read a blog, sat in on one of my presentations or been a client of Carmel Building & Design knows that I’m passionate about sustainable building. The passion stems from a desire to take what I’ve learned about human impact on the environment over the past 25 years and apply it to my chosen profession. But, it’s not just a way to satisfy my need to address the larger issues that come with being environmentally mindful, it’s also a way to meet the needs of homeowners—like the need for healthier indoor air quality, quiet, durability, and energy and water conservation. And in the end, building in a way that’s better for the home’s occupants is also better for the planet. MORE


Passive is aggressive—Passive House strategies increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions

Passive House—a movement that started in ‘91 with a pilot project in Darmstadt, Germany, first hitting our shores in the early 2000s—has risen to the top as an effective and proven tool to drive down carbon emissions. This system of standards applies to buildings of all types and in every imaginable climate. With little or no added expense, PH strategies yield substantial reductions (we’re talking about 80% in the two PH-certified homes I’ve built so far) in energy usage while providing outstanding comfort, safety and health for occupants. MORE


Side benefits of a Passive House – Extreme energy efficiency plus a whole lot more

There’s no doubt that building to Passive House standards results in energy consumption that’s about 70 to 80 percent less than what you’d expect from a traditionally built home (or school, or office building, or factory…you get the picture). That’s due in part to the fact that the home is air tight, super-insulated and uses a heat recovery ventilation system that exhausts air (and moisture) and replaces it with fresh filtered air. It’s warmed primarily by passive solar and internal heat gains from occupants, cooking, bathing and electrical equipment and kept cool in summer through shading, window orientation and ventilation. MORE


To certify or not to certify?…a good question.

Our rationale of following the path of Passive House, LEED, Zero Net Energy, Living Building Challenge or other specific set of guidelines is not to achieve a certification to have in our portfolio. These programs provide standards that achieve a better quality home with high energy efficiency, interior spaces that are comfortable, have healthy air quality and are quiet, yield a durable home that has a lower carbon footprint and is kinder to the planet, along with a clear way to get there. MORE


The many benefits of air sealing

It’s common knowledge that a good chunk of our energy costs go into heating and cooling our homes. And after we’ve conditioned the air to be at just the right temperature throughout the house, it all too often leaks out through seams, cracks and even the tiniest holes. This is not only a waste of energy, but dollars. In fact, leaks account for the biggest losses in both categories. MORE


A fresh look at heating and cooling the home

Nothing gobbles up energy—and eats away at a homeowner’s budget—like heating and cooling the home’s interior. Considering the number of points in a traditionally-built home where air—along with the money you’ve spent to warm it up—leaks in and out, dad’s classic question of, “Are you trying to heat the outdoors?” comes to mind. MORE


A green way to insulate for extreme energy efficiency

Back in the ‘70s, California’s Title 24 revised the state’s building code to include limits for energy usage in built environments. The go-to solution for stemming the amount of energy required for heating and cooling quickly became insulation. For decades, the most frequently used type of insulation was fiberglass batt, laid between framing in walls and ceilings. To work effectively, insulation has to completely stop the movement of air. The fiberglass itself is not the insulation—it’s the material’s ability to trap air—known in the trades as the “dead air space strategy.” The primary challenges have been installing it in a way that completely fills all the cavities, and protecting the installers from skin rashes and breathing the harmful particles that escape during the process. MORE


Hot water at any faucet in 3 to 5 seconds with as little as 1 cup wasted. Now that’s a HUGE improvement.

Studies show that the average home wastes more than 3,650 gallons a year waiting for the hot water to make it to the faucet. And about 15% of the energy used in conventional hot water delivery systems is wasted.1 That’s an unnecessary burden on your energy budget as well as on our area’s limited water supply and other natural resources. MORE


Unlocking the power of grey water

In every house we build, we look for ways to increase energy efficiency and reduce related waste and costs. In the Carmel Point home we’re building, following the Living Building Challenge, some solutions we’re using include an awesome water-to-water heat pump, demand-controlled circulation system and what the industry calls “structured plumbing.” Together, these systems dramatically reduce both the energy used to heat the water and the amount of water wasted.

Let’s talk first about the water heating system that’s a lot more than a heat pump. It’s called the Nexus Heat Recovery System. Used in Australia, Nexus was introduced in the U.S. a couple years back. It’s in a model home near Sacramento, but this is the first complete system installed in a residence in the U.S. MORE


What “green” really means

A couple quotes come to mind when I think about green building:

“Sustainable development involves meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Earth Summit, Rio De Janeiro, 1992)

“By making smarter choices about how you build and the products you use, you can significantly contribute to the health, wealth and well-being of yourself, your family, your community, and the world.”(

As green building continues to become more mainstream, we are deluged with definitions of “green.” Be it through the media, trade publications or discussions with friends, it’s likely that the info is confusing or contradictory. With this in mind, let’s review the basic terms. MORE