From child trafficking in Ghana, to the drug war in Columbia, journalist Lisa Ling is no stranger to tackling social issues head on. Ling has reported all over the world for National Geographic Explorer, the Oprah Winfrey Network, and CNN. In 2008, Ling was one of the hosts on CNN’s Planet in Peril: Battle Lines, a documentary examining the conflicts between humans and nature. So it was no surprise that when she was ready to build her own home, she was determined to find solutions that would result in a mini- mum impact on the environment. “CNN’s Planet in Peril was a fantastic opportunity for me to investigate the condition of this planet. A natural question comes from such a journalistic piece. ‘What can I do in my life to start to turn this around and be more thoughtful of my choices?’” Ling goes on to say, “I wanted to do my part to set an example for others that choices we make in our lives can add up. Think locally, act globally. What choices we make right here at home do affect people that live in distant countries and vice versa.”
Both Ling and her husband, Dr. Paul Song, had a very distinct sense of what they wanted their home to be, and when they met principal designer, Marco DiMaccio of PUNCHouse De- sign Group, they knew they had met their man. At the time, Ling was preoccupied with some of the most stressful events in her life, including her younger sister, journalist Laura Ling, being held captive in North Korea. As a result, her time and attention were understandably limited, and she and Dr. Song needed someone they could trust the project with, who un- derstood exactly what they wanted to achieve. “It’s their home, nothing is more important than to listen to the type of life the client wants to have in it,” says DiMaccio.
With Ling’s inquisitive nature and her strong belief that education is the best tool for becoming more sustainable, it didn’t take too long before she and Dr. Song learned the benefits of building a sustainable home. That is when they learned about LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification: “That meant for me peace of mind knowing that the home is clean for my daughter, and low to no VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) materials were used; and being less dependent, and maybe even energy independent, is something that all people would love to be.” She goes further to say, “People want to know how to become energy independent so that they can then feel the freedom of not being tied to public utilities so much. I feel that our home helps to show that one can have it all in a very stylish package.”
To that end, DiMaccio worked tirelessly one day at a time, not to reach a LEED certification, but to make the smartest and most efficient decisions that he possibly could throughout the design process. DiMaccio stated, “most important to me was to keep focused on the task of the day and not get caught up in trying to achieve some goal that’s far off…if we achieved anything of significance in terms of certifications or awards then I wanted it to be because we had earned it from daily hard work.”
There are many homes, especially in the California area that are sustainable or have reached a LEED certification. Al- though impressive, the fact that Ling’s home achieved Platinum LEED certification is not what makes this house unique. But achieving 100% recycle/reuse on a deconstructed home in conjunction with achieving the highest level of LEED certification makes this home very special, and the first of it’s kind.
Every piece of the home that stood on the lot before Ling’s home, including the nails, were recycled or reused. With the help of Habitat for Humanity and Waste Management, Di- Maccio was able to figure out how to use all of the materials. DiMaccio and his team even found a way to recycle and re- use the toxic, petroleum based roofing material by locating a company that would use it to make parking lots, or asphalt for roads. The reuse of materials didn’t stop there. The signature five-foot diameter ball light in front of the house was constructed out of a few thousand plastic Chinese takeout containers.
DiMaccio’s smart and efficient design included more than the reuse and recycling of materials. He also paid close attention to efficient heating, cooling and water irrigation by using large overhangs to keep the house well shaded, while at the same time using large windows to bring reflective soft light into the space. He included a central atrium open from the first floor that extends through the roof, bringing extra light to the center of the house, while allowing the hot air to be pulled up and out of the house by remote controlled sky- lights. In addition, the house has solar panels and a 5000-gal- lon rainwater tank buried in the front yard.
More often than not, open spaces, clean lines, and a modern aesthetic can equal cold and uninviting – not comfort- able. However, DiMaccio listened to his client and created a warm and welcoming space where Ling and Dr. Song could feel their most relaxed. A space where they could gather and enjoy the company of friends and family, a place where they could laugh and play with their daughter and watch her grow. When asked what her favorite part of the house was, Ling replied, “Wherever my husband and daughter are is my favorite part of the house. But my particular favorite part is the front grass amphitheater. It is so cool and will be the largest playpen for my daughter. My whole family can sit in that grass amphitheater and talk and see each other. Nothing makes me and Paul happier than to be with our family and our little daughter Jett.” When asked the same question Di- Maccio answered, “I was hired to create a happy space for them to live in. That smile is my favorite part.”
Learn more about LEED at their website here.