Home builder Steve Glenn has integrated the latest ideas in green architecture and design into an award-winning house in Santa Monica.
"First and foremost we wanted to create homes that people really wanted to live in," he said. "We tried to make it zero energy, zero water, zero carbon."
Most of the energy used to run the house is produced on the roof through a system called photovoltaics, which Glenn said creates power from the sun while doubling as a canopy. The sun also provides the home with hot water instead of an old conventional hot water heater.
"We have one as a back up in case it isn't a sunny day," Glenn said. "But generally if it's a sunny day we're going to get all the hot water we need from this."
After the water goes down the drain, it's recycled and used to irrigate the home's greenery.
"All of the materials in this home are recycled or reclaimed or reused," Glenn said. "So the counter tops here are actually made with newsprint, mixed with a bonding agent and sealed with Linseed oil."
The home's fireplace burns denatured alcohol, which Glenn said produces no smoke and nearly no carbon while providing more heat than a wood burning fireplace.
The Science Center elementary school in Los Angeles is also moving towards a more eco-friendly design and features a "green roof," which is a conventional roof with about four to 18 inches of soil and plants on top of it.
"Green roofs have been proven to be excellent for the environment," said Mario Cipresso, the school's project manager. "Plant material tends to clean the air just by taking in carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. It would have a great environmental impact if this was something that caught on and started to be a trend and became common policy."
In New York, a recently completed skyscraper, which is home to the Hearst Corporation, has been hailed as the city's greenest.
"The design of the building in itself is remarkable in that it's a 46-story glass and steel structure sitting on top of an original six floor landmark structure," Hearst Vice President of Real Estate Brian Schwagerl said. "So the architect took the original structure, scooped out everything inside and then we recycled those materials. When it rains on the rooftop we collect the water. It goes down the pipes, down into a reclamation tank in the basement, 14,000 gallons right. That rainwater then gets reconstitute."
Some of that water is chilled and then fed into this ten story high water fall in the atrium. As the cold water evaporates it helps cool the building in the summer and adds humidity in the winter. But the greenest feature of the building is its windows.
"By letting all that sunlight in, we needed less artificial light," Schwagerl said. "So this building uses 26 percent less electric than a normal skyscraper."
The Hearst tower's glass was specially made to let light in, but keep much of heat out, reducing the amount of air-conditioning that's needed. And though it doesn't look it, much of this building is recycled.
The carpet is made of recycled materials, the ceiling is made of recycled materials, the chair itself that the people are sitting in are all made of recycled materials and at the end of its life it will be recycled," Schwagerl said. "Corporations are learning that it's not as difficult to be green as was imagined."