The “are big houses really green?” debate is one that frequently pops up ‘round these parts — most recently in a post about the 5,000-square foot, LEED Platinum Costa Mesa Green Home — so I thought I’d share the news, via the New York Times, of another super-sized green home that's raising eyebrows, not to mention ire, in Berkeley, California. 

This time around the home in question hasn’t even been built yet. It’s a planned eco-mansion in Berkeley — a city that I feel comfortable dubbing the “holy land of green” — that, once finished, will boast 6,500-square feet of living space and a 3,500-square foot, 10-car (!) garage. Holy square footage, Batman. Who’s behind the project? It’s non other than Mitch Kapor, a tech-entrepreneur, software designer (he’s the maker of the Firefox browser), and philanthropist who regularly supports environmental groups.

In Berkeley, building proposals can earn points based on eco-friendly features. The point system, developed by Build it Green, isn’t too dissimilar from the LEED rating system. If a home racks up more than 60 points,  the city of Berkeley designates it as “green” with no consideration of size. Kapor’s home passed the test with flying colors — it earned 91 points — and folks in Berkeley aren’t too pleased about it. The zoning board’s decision to give the Kapor project the go-ahead is now being appealed.

So why the sour grapes? According to those opposed to the project, size does indeed matter and green home rating systems like the one in Berkeley are flawed and should be revised to consider a home’s square footage.

Gary Earl Parsons, a Berkeley architect, thinks that the city’s decision to label the home as green is “absurd” and goes on to say: “That the staff, the owners and the architects indulge in this kind of greenwashing only serves to make a joke out of Berkeley’s environmental aspirations.”

Read more about the Kapor case at the New York Times, where a variety of folks weigh in on the perennially touchy topic of green home building and size. What do you think? Should green rating systems like the one used in Berkeley be subject to an overhaul? Should Kapor be exempt from scrutiny because he's a champion of environmental causes and drives a Prius? 

Via [New York Times]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

In Berkeley, size does matter
Residents in Berkeley, Calif. are up in arms about the city's decision to label a proposed 10,000-square foot home as 'green.'