Custom, eco-friendly home features unique water solution

The Sunset Monterey Bay Idea House is 20th in a line of exceptional custom homes showcasing product innovation, architectural, landscaping and decorating ideas...

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The Sunset Monterey Bay Idea House is 20th in a line of exceptional custom homes presented by Sunset magazine to showcase product innovation, architectural, landscaping and decorating ideas. Since 1998, Sunset Idea Houses have brought visitors a multitude of eco-friendly features in response to the need for energy efficiency, advanced product function and environmental sustainability. Located in the exclusive residential community of Monterra in the California foothills overlooking the ocean, the house was purposely designed to meet Monterey County "green" building specifications as well as Sunset's expectations for their Idea Houses.

"The county encourages green construction by expediting permits and offering other incentives," explains Tom Messenger, of Messenger Construction Management Inc., who served as project manager. "The Sunset Monterey Bay House needed to be at least 70% green through the use of environmentally-innovative features such as the ability to reclaim water, which fit perfectly with Triton."

Triton Stormwater Solutions was selected as the water solution provider for its unique system which "has the highest storage volume of any of the chamber systems combined with the highest traffic load rating," explains Bill Wilson, an environmental consultant with Carlile Macy, who assisted on the project. "Triton enables you to put a large amount of storage in a smaller area with less cover and that makes it really competitive economically."

California, and especially the Monterey Peninsula, has always had issues with a lack of water, and there have been recent concerns that volunteer water rationing may become mandatory. In addition, California regulation states that the footprint of a building dictates the number of bathrooms allowed in a house based on water availability. Harvesting rainwater offers homeowners the ability to have an unlimited number of bathrooms.

Comprised of three connected "farm buildings" and courtyards enclosed with native stone walls, the home presented tight site access and made it difficult to store water in that limited footprint. The need for more water on less space was the driving issue when selecting a storm water solution.

The allotted space for water collection also needed to be put under the motor court. "Whenever you have a structural component with a traffic area over it, the product needs to be rated very high," explains Messenger. "In California, a residential area has to be rated for a fire truck so the design has to be very structurally strong."

In addition, the system is designed for service and maintenance with the use of bottom pieces and sumps in addition to chambers and end pieces for easy access. Made of soy resin, the Triton products provide greater LEED credits than any other chamber or crate box type systems that are available in the market today.

A Triton detention system was installed that allows for the harvesting of rain and storm water to be re-used as a "gray water" source for toilet flushing, car washing and irrigation purposes. The 49' long x 34' wide excavation contains 65 chambers that holds 20,000 gallons--enough to water the entire half acre landscape area for one year.

First, the hole was dug and then a base layer of rock was installed and compacted according to the soil engineer's requirements. Next, the bottom and walls of the trench were lined with a class 2 non-woven geo-fabric. Once this was done a custom- made liner was installed followed by another layer of class 2 non woven geo-fabric to help provide protection from rocks puncturing the liner during the backfill process.

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The chambers, manifold and standpipe connection was then installed and the backfill process of the embedment stone began. Once this backfill process achieved a consistent cover of 6" of stone above the chamber crowns, then the geo-fabric was folded over the embedment stone and the finish grade fill was installed. Two dump truck loads of fill stone were dumped onto the chamber bed and leveled with a backhoe maintaining 8" of cover between the wheels and the top of the embedment stone. The finished stone was then compacted per the specification and the Triton system was ready to accept traffic loading of H and HS 30.

Another key feature of the Triton chambers is that they weigh only 32 pounds apiece, enabling workers to carry two or three at a time with the chambers being placed in just under 40 minutes.

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The total installation, including digging the excavation site, placing the chambers and covering with soil took two days, although that was due in large part to ensure the stability of the soil while following stringent California requirements as a result of the large number of earthquakes in that region.

A testament to the strength of the Triton system is that wheeled vehicles weighing over 31,000 pounds were able to drive over the chambers and dump their loads of stone with a cover of just 8 inches, unlike the 24 inch cover required by other systems.

"We have never installed a system like this," says Messenger. "The design was fascinating. Most systems are made out of concrete or are a big underground water tank. The Triton chambers and the way it works with a liner and manifold system -- I was amazed at the simplicity of it but at the same time how efficient it is. I've worked with all kinds of cistern systems but I've never seen a system quite like this. It's a great product."

Wilson agrees saying "it's a one-of-a-kind thing out there right now, very unique and very versatile."

They both agree that the customer service that Triton provides is top-notch.

"Triton has been outstanding in their support for me on the whole range of things that I have presented them with," explains Wilson. "This is a very high quality organization all the way through."

Messenger stresses that Triton was very professional and got all the product there on time, even shipping some items overnight. "They performed above and beyond expectation."

The Monterey House is tentatively scheduled to be open to the public in October and featured in Sunset magazine's October issue.

August 2008


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