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Gunning House
Photo © David Duncan Livingston
Sited on a back lot, the house is entered off an alley.


Gunning House

Robert Nebolon Architects
Hermosa Beach, California

Sitting Pretty, Near the Beach: Stack ventilation and ocean breezes keep this beach house comfortable with minimal heating and cooling.

By Nadav Malin

Originally published January 2009

March 2012

The care that architect Robert Nebolon took in designing this three-story home with the living space on top for ocean breezes and views has paid off. After five years, "the architecture seems to work very well with the climate and the area by providing many ways to ventilate the house," Nebolon says, based on personal visits and reports from the residents, who are his sister and her family.

Gunning House


Location Hermosa Beach, California (Los Angeles basin)

Gross area 1,832 ft2 (170 m2)

Cost $550,000

Completed March 2007

Annual purchased energy use 38.1 kBtu/ft2 (432.8 MJ/m2)

Annual carbon footprint 6.1 lbs. CO2/ft2 (29.7 kg CO2/m2)


Architect, Interior Designer, Landscape Robert Nebolon Architects

Engineer Sarmiento (structural)

General contractor John Madison Construction

View all team & sources

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Hermosa Beach, California, is one of the many towns that make up greater Los Angeles, and this house takes advantage of its location a block and a half from the beach. Nebolon is pleased with how the ocean breezes that kick in almost every afternoon work in conjunction with the thermostatically controlled skylight to keep the place comfortable. "The only time the house has cooling problems is when there is no breeze and L.A. is having a heat wave," he reports.

For the modest heating load in this mild climate, Nebolon feels that the heating system—a boiler feeding a heating coil in the air handler system—was overkill. Based on this experience, he would now choose a simpler furnace-based system and leave out the hydronic components. The family is thrilled, however, with the water efficiency and effectiveness of the LG Tromm washing machine they installed.

The beach location does come with corrosion hazards, so Nebolon chose a combination of 24-gauge steel siding coated with DuraTech 5000 polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) and a stucco finish with integral color. The metal coating is a light "champagne silver" color that reflects heat. At street level, split-face and glazed concrete masonry units (CMUs) from Trenwyth Industries keep the weather out. All these finishes are holding up well so far.

It's not only the living spaces that Nebolon elevated to the top level: The roof deck includes planters in which the family grows vegetables as well as decorative plants. The house is wired for photovoltaics on the roof as well, but those have yet to be installed. However, to achieve net zero at their current level of energy use--almost 7,000 kWh of electricity annually, and twice as much in natural gas—they would have to cover the entire roof surface with high-efficiency panels.


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