Climate change-friendly home design tips from a green ADU

Most people would have sent the wood to a landfill. But for sustainable builder Steve Pallrand, founder and chief designer of LA company Carbon Shack Design, the crumbling redwood cladding of the barn was the impetus for what came next: an 888-square-foot, zero-energy accessory housing unit, or ADU .

“I am inspired by the idea of ​​living in harmony with nature,” says Pallrand, who completed the ADU last year after dismantling the barn and installing the recovered materials in the one-room house that was in its place.

In a world slowly grappling with climate change, Pallrand’s eco-friendly construction approach appealed to homeowners, a television writer, and a musician looking for a sustainable and modern addition to house friends and family, as well as their aging parents in particular.

They also wanted a home to complement their Highland Park neighborhood, which is one of the oldest communities in Los Angeles and is home to some of Southern California’s most classic architectural styles such as Craftsman, Queen Anne Victorian, Mission, and Tudor Revival.

The four-bedroom couple’s craftsman is more than a century old and may have had modern updates like the swimming pool next to the house, but the unauthorized barn at the back of the 10,000-square-foot double lot was pure vintage – perfect for a builder like Pallrand, whose own house in Mt. Washington made of salvaged material.

But Pallrand didn’t stop there. To ensure that the systems he installed are kind to the environment, Pallrand added many environmentally friendly solutions: wood from the dilapidated barn was salvaged to frame the internal non-load-bearing walls of the ADU. The barn’s redwood siding has been reused on half of the house and new redwood siding has been added to finish off the rest of the exterior. The old roofing membrane was reused as the floor covering. Boards and slats were used to make the cabinets and mills. The concrete slab was broken up and used as pathways, and when the city forced them to remove a cedar tree for fire access, they used that to create live edge countertops and furniture in the kitchen.

The ramshackle barn on this Highland Park estate provided copious amounts of salvaged wood for the flooring, custom cabinetry, and wood-paneled ceiling.

(Cris Nolasco)

“Building is emotional for me,” he adds. “It is possible to enjoy the beauty of nature without destroying it. We always try to make things more environmentally friendly. “

Pallrand’s design is one of the newest additions to LA’s ADU offerings, aka granny flats, which have become increasingly popular to help tackle the LA housing crisis. While the city has eased the reins for those looking to build additional housing on their property and introduced a simplified program known as the ADU Standard Plan Program, Pallrand goes a step further and shows that ADU’s added value and beauty create and use less energy at the same time.

Inspired by the homeowners, Pallrand designed an ADU referencing the craftsman’s main house by adding rustic redwood cladding to the ADU as well as a flat shed roof sloping south around the solar panels and a slightly raised, wraparound one to maximize the covered porch that connects the house to the back yard.

The kitchen and dining room of a Highland Park ADU

Home Front Build has milled and custom-made the live-edge countertops, dining table, and cantilevered shelving of this Highland Park granny flat from a full-grown cedar that was removed from a nearby lot.

(Cris Nolasco)

Pallrand, who studied at CalArts and was influenced by the Land Art movement of the 1970s, says the house may be an artisan by nature, but its spirit is decidedly modern.

“It’s trying to be part of the site’s history, but it’s clearly new,” says Pallrand. “The old wood has age and authenticity. That’s what we love about historical buildings – they are part of the community. “

Inside, exposed wood, beams, and colorful Revival tiles from Mission Tile West in the kitchen and bathroom continue the Craftsman theme, while high-performance thermal sliding door panels on the southwest corner of the unit connect the addition to the back yard and pool – a classic one Modernist movement.

Improved insulation and double-pane windows, framed with reclaimed wood from other salvaged works, reduce noise and energy consumption. And cliff windows flood the interiors with daylight and expand the view while maintaining privacy.

To further increase energy efficiency, Pallrand installed electrical appliances with an energy star, including an induction hob paired with a combination of microwave and convection oven as well as an electric refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer.

In a sense, the eco-friendly design represents an optimistic vision for the future of a state plagued by forest fires, drought, heat waves and limited housing. It also serves as an inspiration for people who want to build additional units for working from home and for aging on site.

Heavy duty thermal sliding doors on the southwest corner of Highland Park ADU

High-performance thermal sliding doors on the southwest corner of Highland Park ADU retract completely to dissolve the gap between inside and outside.

(Cris Nolasco)

“People who were stuck in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic are now thinking about how they want to live,” says Pallrand. “You don’t want to zoom into your dining room. You want a job; they want separation. You also want a place for guests and family. Many of our customers think of caregivers for children and aging family members. You want them on site, but not in the house. “

As Los Angeles dumps and California has its hottest summer on record, Highland Park ADU stands as an example of what is possible: new homes in an increasingly crowded city that are energy efficient.

According to Pallrand, there are two ways to reduce a home’s environmental footprint. “You can reduce your operational carbon footprint, the carbon cost of living in your home” when it comes to choosing options for heating, cooling, cooking and cleaning clothes. And if you’re building a new building, adding an extension, or remodeling, you can reduce your embedded footprint – the carbon footprint of building materials like concrete, wood, and roofs – by assessing your one-off carbon costs. (Want to know your carbon footprint? Pallrand’s website,, has several calculators, plus efficiency facts and a step-by-step guide to green building).

Pallrand describes his strategies for creating green housing that help fight climate change:

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