Thursday, December 31, 2009

Case Study: Claire's on Cedros - Solana Beach, CA

Image: Claire's on Cedros - The Solana Beach, California located restaurant is currently on target for LEED Platinum.
Copyright: JLC Architecture

By Jill Bellenger, CPH | ASLA

JLC Architecture is enjoying their new home in Solana Beach, California. The firm, formerly located in nearby downtown San Diego, recently moved into the site of one of their newest and greenest commercial projects. The Claire's on Cedros property at 246 N. Cedros includes 2,500 square feet of restaurant space, 810 square feet of residential use and the 674 square feet retail/office space where Jean-Louis Coquereau and Tyler Van Stright of JLC Architecture now occupy. We recently interviewed the architects about the unique circumstances surrounding the Claire's project, including their decision to become its neighbor.

The town of Solana Beach is in many ways a model for sustainable practices, with a commuter and regional rail station located just across the street from the Claire's site, and adjacent walking paths all the way to the beach. Jean-Louis told us of the town's plan to create a "green" Chamber of Commerce, to include all its eco-friendly businesses. So it's no doubt a viable spot to design a cutting-edge green restaurant, complete with its own edible garden on site, where chefs routinely step out for fresh ingredients to add in their daily creations.

From the beginning, JLC Architecture's client had green features in mind, but the original plan did not include a LEED certification, let alone what is scheduled to be the first freestanding restaurant in the US to have the LEED Platinum designation. It is registered under the LEED-CS and LEED-CI categories and the firm hopes to have a USGBC ruling by early January 2010.

"We wish every client we work with would have the same vision," Jean-Louis says. He further explains that there is a bit of "tunnel-vision" involved when clients only consider the first-time costs of energy efficient building and site design. But with guidance from the project team, which in Claire's case included the locally-based LEED Consulting firm Drew George & Partners, they soon become committed to the long-term goals of conservation and human well-being. Jean-Louis feels that LEED Consultants have a unique role of "holding the hand of the architect" to keep all LEED elements in check.

While the original construction cost for Claire's on Cedros was about 6-8% higher than traditional construction, many of the more pricey components quickly provide energy savings. The total of fifty-four solar panels line the carport may be a high-ticket item, but they immediately cover 40% of the restaurant's power load. High reflective roofing brings in another huge energy savings overhead, while pervious concrete covers the parking lot, walkways, and patio space for no additional cost. Another creative green feature of the complex is the recycling of fryer grease, which cuts down on waste while crediting the restaurant.

Jean-Louis hopes that beginning with this month's first college tour by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), more groups will see the Claire's project as a teaching tool. There so much to learn here, as well as being an excellent combination of sustainable architecture and horticulture. When asked whether they have any plans to continue the trend of moving onto their newest project site, he says no, "We like it here very much."

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