Former Student Strives for Better Housing, Sustainable Living
November 4, 2004 11:14 PM
The housing crunch in San Francisco leaves little room for first-time homebuyers. Residents are opting to rent hoping someday the market will come down to reasonable levels. A graduate of SF State played that waiting game and finally decided to take matters into his own hands.
The result is sitting in Lot A at SBC Park.
Scott Redmond is the brainchild behind NowHouse, an eco-friendly affordable housing project on display in the parking lot of San Francisco’s downtown stadium through December.
Redmond has come a long way since graduating from SF State in 1979 with a degree in sociology/cultural anthropology and a minor in architecture/engineering. His idea of building a house came after being fed up for decades about the rising housing costs in San Francisco.
Redmond began developing several design patents. He took the technology he used in his career as an architect and teamed it with the concept of clean green affordable housing. The result of that combination was NowHouse.
“The world is dying,” said Redmond. “All notable scientists say the world has reached an environment crisis because of political and business interests.” Redmond wanted to show a connection between living in a clean environment and being healthy.
"Cancer is rising and it’s directly related to industrial reasons so it doesn’t make sense to live in a home that is toxic," he said. "Home is supposed to be your castle, a sanctuary where you feel safe, but if the rubber mats under your carpet and the materials in your walls are toxic, it directly affects your well being."
Redmond is also concerned about the impact building materials have on our environment. NowHouse is made to order with new-growth bamboo floors, non-toxic paint, solar panels and wind energy technologies. Wood walls are insulated with environmentally friendly steam-expanded foam and are strong enough to withstand 160-mph winds. The house requires no drywall and no expert carpentry crew due to it’s precut and ready to assemble panels.
Redmond credits two former SF State professors for inspiring him with advice that helped him make it to where he is today. Film professor Irving Saraf taught Redmond that people are only limited by their own imagination.
"That was a big one for me," he said. "It was that ‘think outside of the box’ type of awareness that freed me to explore other options."
Professor Herb Zettle taught a television course that emphasized the importance of precision and craft in the use of tools. Redmond said that class got him focused on technology and its power.
The 2,400-square-foot NowHouse invention took 35 days to build. The two-story structure is complete with modern top-of-the-line accessories including state-of-the-art technology running digital appliances and media all wired into an integrated system.
"I really wanted to show people that modular pre-fab design systems don't have to look funky," said Redmond.
The NowHouse project brings together 100 corporate sponsors and several government agencies like the San Francisco Department of the Environment, who recently announced a commitment to incorporate renewable energy, water conservation, and green building materials to all municipal buildings consisting of more than 5,000 square feet of floor space.
Redmond hopes to sell 1000 clones of NowHouse across the country. The panels cost about $100,000, which includes installation, then another $70,000 for appliances, but in the Bay Area it could cost up to $600,000 once the cost of land, building permits and property taxes are factored in.
According to Redmond, new construction in the Bay Area begins around $200 per square foot, but NowHouse runs about $150. Costs would vary and could be considerably cheaper in other areas of the country, said Redmond.
Redmond is now talking to city officials about having a lottery to give low-income families the opportunity to have a NowHouse. He is hoping to find sponsors from around the Bay Area to buy the home and donate it to the lottery. Names would then be added to a pool and several homes would be donated to needy families. The city already has land set aside for projects like this, said Redmond.
San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom proclaimed Oct. 29 NowHouse Project Awareness Day in San Francisco, and Redmond has been asked to be involved in the United Nations World Environment Day on Jun. 5, 2005.
"I just want to continue using technology solutions to improve people’s lives," said Redmond. This SF State over-achiever may be one step closer to changing the world's view of healthy sustainable living.
For more information about NowHouse go to http://www.nowhouse.org
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