Robert Fortunato shares his experience designing, building, and living in his sustainably designed home The Green Idea House. Located in Hermosa Beach, California his family’s home is a valuable case study in whether, and how, sustainable design practices are affordable and doable for today’s homeowners.

*Header image credit: Robert Fortunato , ForStrategy Consulting LLC

Full Podcast Transcript

Grace Mase:

Hello, and welcome to the Revivify Podcast. I'm your host, Grace Mase, and we're very fortunate to have Robert Fortunato today, he is the Owner and Builder of Green Idea House, and the President of the For Strategy consulting. We have so much to learn for you, Robert. I'd love to talk about how you guys started and your fascinating path, and I'd love to discuss them for everyone to learn more about you.

Robert:

Grace, you're very kind. And I appreciate you putting this together and helping other people understand how to, you know, affordably build what is possible today, green net 00 energy buildings that perform better and are less expensive than standard construction. We got involved in this quite by accident, in that, when my son was born, he kicked me out of my office in our little 1300 square foot house. And so we needed more space. But we had worked and traveled internationally for two years, and we just saw that people around the globe have a different perspective on materials and design and sort of how things operate.

We're also, you know, big architecture fans and fans of anthropology as well. And in our travels, we visited Mesa Verde in Colorado, and saw the cliff dwelling where the Native Americans lived, and it was really inspirational, because there were keys all along the all along this canyon that these Native Americans could have lived in, but they picked this one place. It was June, it was quite near the summer solstice, and the whole cave was in shade, because it had like a 14 foot overhang on it. And it just occurred to me that these people were really smart. You know, thousands of years ago, these people were really smart. And we had forgotten a bit of what they did to keep themselves cool in the summertime and warm in the winter. And when I took my composite out, and I looked at the orientation of this cave, it was almost due south. So they knew exactly what they were doing, they could have put their cave, their palace anywhere, you know, there are plenty of caves along this canyon, but they they knew that if they positioned that cave with that 14 foot overhang in the south orientation, they knew that they in the Northern Hemisphere, they would get plenty of passive heating, and they would get free cooling at the same time. So, it kind of inspired us. And so when we needed some additional space, that's what you know, basically, the design was about we tried to replicate that in the design of our house. And it led to a whole series of things that came forward in terms of looking for the kinds of technologies that were less expensive, and it worked better than standard construction.

Grace Mase

I love how you’re just taking that experience being inspired by something that's simple and elegant, and then pushing forward to creating such a remarkable space. And oftentimes people think about this as more theoretical discussion, you know, you learn the academic world, you have those discussions, but the reality is, it’s absolutely possible, everything you described is feasible. But yet, why do you think we're not making it as wildly popular as it should be for this natural house?

Robert:

It's kind of interesting in that, you know, we have a lot to be thankful for, right? In terms of the oil infrastructure that was built, it powered our country for 100 years, and it has worked relatively well. So you know, there's just things to be thankful for about that, and there's things to regret about that as well. We know what's happening with climate and everything else that's going on, but there was a period of time where we thought we could sort of control nature as a result of cheap oil, essentially. And so glass buildings went up and all kinds of things went forward with the knowledge that we could sort of overcome nature by putting a lot burning a lot of fossil fuels, and making those buildings comfortable as a result of that. I think we're just coming to a different awareness now saying we don't really need those things. We can work smarter, not harder, in a way which has been beneficial for both our pockets and environment. Choose our wallets, and the environment at the same time. We can't discount people who are much more concerned about our health as well. By not burning fossil fuels, the locus in which we live by immediately becomes that much more healthy.

Grace Mase:

That's a brilliant idea, and then just even simply, as to me, we talked about the floor heating, and so forth, if you don't mind going to a little bit; just breaking down every aspect of what needs to happen, for people to begin to understand what this means.

Robert:

So the easiest way to explain it is to think of your house as a bit of a cooler, if you will. That's how we thought about our house, it's the opportunity to heat and cool itself. If in fact, it can capture that heat in some form or fashion, and that's a simple installation. But we haven't really done insulation well, and we haven't done overhangs well either. As I described before, in order to grab that heat or cooling and store it for a period of time, essentially, we did really simple things that actually saved money.

So for example, you're an architect, and you know the standard practice for a framed wood wall is that you put the studs there centered 16 inches on center, and that's just by code.That's the way we build, and I don't want to do anything crazy, because I know it's hard for people and nobody wants to live in a mud hut. Nobody wants to live in a spaceship, or there's a very particular few who want to do that. But most people don't, we didn't want to build a mud hut, and we didn't want to build a spaceship. We knew most contractors were very familiar with wood construction, so we wanted to build a two by four house, but simply instead of putting those studs16 on center, we put them 24 inches on center.  That means that you have much more space for insulation on the interior of that cavity. It's a really simple concept. There's a known exception to the code that allows you to do that thing, without much difficulty.

And so we learned about this thing called, Advanced framing, that really changed the properties of the house, so that the assemblies were much more able to be insulated. It created the cooler that we're talking about. We did very simple things to air seal the property and very simple things to insulate it that much better. But if you think about that assembly, we're actually using less wood in that assembly than a standard construction, and more insulation. So the wood is R-3, which is the resistance to heat and cold. So it's very, it's not very insulated, if you will, we're what's inside the wall is our 13 S has much more insulating properties. So you have less wood and more insulation, and so you have a better assembly, and at the same time, it's less expensive. And so that's what we're shooting for with everything that we're thinking about how we do this, not only better, but less expensive. I like to first. So that's one example of a twofer that we had.

Grace Mase:

That's great because there's an economic benefit, and it’s also just overall more sustainable. I love this, this path, run the envelope we talked about the structure piece of it. Now let's build from the ground up, then you're talking about the floor, you also have an interesting arrangement for your flooring heating. So I'm kind of curious about that.

Robert:

A lot of people want to put in floor heating and we looked at the floor heating. We actually, as the project got more and more popular, we had somebody who wanted to donate in floor heating for a project. It was one of those things where it was early in the project, and I was a little shocked, and taken back by it. I went to my wife and I said, you know, hey, do we want to do this? And she asked the same question, so we asked from inception, how much does it cost, and does it actually work? I did a little investigation, and it turned out, it was very expensive for the average consumer. Even though we would potentially get it donated, if the average person couldn't buy it, for less than standard construction, we actually didn't want it in the house. So we passed on it, and we later found out that in our climate zone, we're climate zone six, so it's very moderate, what happens is at 10 o'clock in the morning, the sun comes out usually and starts to heat up our house. The problem is with an in floor heating system, you have a very large, what's called thermal mass, so it takes a long time to heat up and a long time to cool down. What we found from other friends of ours who did install that kind of flooring system, was that it didn't actually work in that they had to open their windows starting at 10 o'clock in the morning because it would be overheating and they couldn't cool down that thermal slab fast enough. So we actually went with a baseboard radiant water heating system that was much less expensive. It heats up very quickly and it cools down very quickly, and so in terms of the cooling, we're lucky here, we don't actually need air conditioning. We built in the center of our house or stairwell, and we have windows on the back of the stairwell there; the hot air basically just rises and evacuates. It creates a circulation of air in the house, even in the wintertime we leave those windows cracked open a little bit to keep fresh air moving throughout the house, and it still stays very, very comfortable.

Grace Mase:

And then I understand, for your garage, you also have this watery Keating radius. So love to hear about that, too.

Robert:

So we have an interesting orientation, our house faces Southwest. With a five foot overhang at the top of our house, the only thing that doesn't get shaded in the heat of the summertime is the garage. The garage door has a specific opportunity to it, so we put a glass window across the top of the garage door that allows the passive heat to enter into the garage and heat up the thermal mass in there. So then you say, what would you do with that thermal mass? There are things called heat pumps, hot water heaters, and they're on the market, they're less expensive than what everybody uses today, which are Tankless Hot Water Heaters, and they're so much more efficient than it's crazy. The average Tankless Hot Water Heater is about 93% efficient, and these are about 350% efficient. You say how can you be more than 100% efficient? These things actually take the air in the space, and they take the heat out of the air and push it into the water for an incredible efficiency rate. So there's a heat pump in there that does that. Grace, you have a heat pump in your house? I know you do. Do you know where it is?

Grace Mase:

Done in the basement, so it's not very efficient.

Robert:

Okay, so you have what? You have heat pump technology in your building, but in your apartment, you have a heat pump?

Grace Mase:

I don't live in an apartment, in our house, we actually have a basement. Yes.

Robert:

No, I'm sorry. Anything in your house? You actually have a heat pump?

Grace:

Yes.

Robert:

It's called the refrigerator.

Grace:

Oh, yes. Yes. Right.

Robert:

So this thing is like a reverse refrigerator. And so you know, when you're standing in front of the refrigerator, and you feel the heat of the refrigerator down at your feet?

Grace:

Yes.

Robert:

So it's evacuating the heat inside the box and it’s throwing it down at the floor. Right. So, it's taking the heat out of the box and pushing it outside, right? The unit takes the heat in the room and pushes it into the water with that same level of efficiency. So it's basically doing the same thing, but it's so efficient, that it can do that at 350% efficiency, at much less cost and no pollution essentially, because we have solar panels on the roof that power that unit, so it's all electric. So it works really, really well and we have one of them that does our domestic hot water, so the showers and so forth, and we have another one that runs that heating system that I was telling you about with the baseboard rating.

Grace:

Oh, that's interesting. Wow. That's brilliant, and now let's build a little bit further in. You talked about solar panels, and I think many homes are now getting used to having solar panels. For us, we have 22 panels, and you have 26 panels, and that was able to cover all your electric means in your house?

Robert:

So when we disconnected the gas line, the engineers were very, very nervous. Especially 10 years ago, people weren't comfortable with this idea, and they didn't think we would actually get to our goal which was net zero energy and zero carbon. So, they were really nervous about it. When we first came out of the ground, and we didn't want to have the ribbon cutting for a year, until we had a year's worth of bills, we didn't want to have the ribbon cutting, and we wanted to know it whether it worked or it didn't work. We wanted to be able to tell people this is what worked, this is what didn't work, or this is why it didn't work; just so everybody can learn from the idea. So, a year went by and not only did it work great, but it over generated by two and a half megawatts, a huge amount of energy. The building was so efficient that the IRS didn't even know how to model it correctly. So we ended up with two and a half megawatts extra, and so we bought two electric cars. It fully powers the two electric cars, and it's still net zero energy. It really works. Well, it really, really worked well.

Grace:

Now we have two electric cars too.

Robert:

Nice, nice.

Grace:

So we're always a little bit behind, those could be the shading with a winter and whatnot, but we're still new with this whole system. So love for you to talk about for someone, let's say there is someone contemplating putting solar panels in their house, what would you advise them to consider? And?

Robert:

Yeah, so there's a number of things that I see people make small mistakes on. Advise people on solar systems and other things to optimize them, oftentimes, they're oriented incorrectly for what you're trying to do, and I find it, and they wanted us to orient ourselves, right on our building. Yeah, if you look at how the sun drops in the summer, you realize that the sun actually drops in the northwest in the sky, right? If you orient your panel south, you're missing a lot of the afternoon sun in the summer, that's the most valuable thing there is. So we oriented our Southwest instead, and I think we get a lot more solar gain as a result of that. There's a program called pvwatts, that will estimate your total gain throughout the year giving your longitude, your latitude and all the rest of the things in your orientation, and they estimated that we would get about 9.5 megawatt hours per year out of our solar system, and we get about 10.6. I think it's because of the orientation is what it is. So there's a number of tricks to maximizing your gain from the solar system, and we get up there probably once every six months and clean it off and make sure it's operating correctly, you know, we just kind of keep an eye on it. But the beauty of those systems are their solid state, and if there's anything that goes wrong, I get an email that tells me: Hey, panel 26 is doing something funny, and you can call the company and deal with it in that way. For the most part, it's been the best one of the best investments that I've ever made. It cost about $18,000, and it will, it will pay for itself in about 6.6 years, it will completely pay back its carbon footprint in about that same time. Over the life of the 25 year warranty on the system, it will save me about $94,000. So it's a great investment, huge investment.

Grace Mase

Oftentimes people don't think about when they do the amortization, they don't think about the gas they didn't will have to pay, or the inconvenience of an oil change, or all sorts of things that cars mean. Meanwhile, electric cars, I love the fact that I don't have to go to the gas station anymore, or going just maybe once a year to check with the dealers and make sure all the tires are working and so forth. It's brilliant, and so you start putting those dollars into it actually, if you will, when you  mentioned was it six years, or maybe even less it cost when you think of how much time and money you put into this on maintaining a regular gas car?

Robert:

I love that you live it. I talk to a lot of people who are interested in this subject and you know, they interview me and so forth, but the fact that you live it and you understand that. And I don't know about you, but I don't miss those oil changes or gas stations or any of that nonsense at all.

Grace:

Verus, waiting to come home, you need to charge up a plugin, just like you would plug in your phone. It’s that simple! They think this is overwhelming, too complicated, and they ask the question, what happens when you run out of your electricity? Well, there's tons of places. I mean, we're very fortunate to live in a place that actually has a lot of charging stations. Yeah, I understand some other parts of the country may not have that kind of convenience. But in general, if you can plan correctly, you can actually manage this without question.

Robert:

Amazing, and the cars are getting so smart. I'll come home and I'll plug in my car, and it knows the time of patterns of my utility, so it won’t turn back on unless I urgently need it, and I tell it to turn back on until it's the optimal time for the grid, and for the cost of energy to start recharging itself. So you know, I think it's even smarter than your phone at this point.

Grace:

I think so too with our arrangements to know you talked about the grid, and that's an interesting thing a lot of people don't understand, when you put solar panels on your house. Unless you have a battery setup, do you have a battery for your home?

Robert:

We decided not to go with the battery, because the grid is a battery, and we were going to buy two electric cars which have batteries in them as well, which we use as backups. So I bought an inverter, okay? If you want a tip on this, I can send you a link now. For 300 bucks, you can buy an inverter that connects to your electric car that allows you to plug your house back into the battery in your car. So all this is possible today and it's not that expensive?

Grace:

Oh, yes, if you might share that with me. Really, I didn't think about that, but that makes sense. A lot of times when people worry about what happens, you know, during the day your panels are collecting a bunch of sunlight converted to electricity, and then when power outages happen or a transformer blows up what happens then?

Robert:

Yeah. So there's a sort of a conversation that goes around, well, number one, the grid can't take my power in the middle of day, no one's home. No one's using that power. Well, right now, everyone's home,but that's a different story, but, you know, the sort of a conversation is, you know, basically, it's a waste to get a giant solar system, because nobody's going to be using that electricity. You're just putting a burden on the grid, and I don't know about you, but I am one of two people on my whole block who has solar panels, right? Like, yeah, there aren't many people with solar panels, and so what happens to the energy in my house is it powers the next two or three houses down the road. It's not like it gets wasted or something like that. So a lot of people don't understand that the power is basically just powering the houses next to us, and we've been contemplating batteries, we're watching battery storage,and the price of battery storage go down significantly. We would definitely consider that going forward, but to your question when the power goes out, that's why I mentioned my car. The Tesla battery currently has 6, no, I'm sorry, 13.5 kilowatt hours as a capacity to it. So it's a decent sized battery, but my Chevy Bolts has a 60 kilowatt hour battery in it, so it's a huge battery. If I can tap into that, for resiliency, I have a huge amount of capacity, and so that's what we do with that inverter that I was mentioning before.

Grace:

Yes. Okay, now, thank you, that makes a lot of sense. That's a brilliant set up. Really, actually really smart.

Robert:

You don't have to buy one more thing, essentially. Right.

Grace:

And now, as your house has become a net zero house, What would you advise as a homeowner? How do they navigate through these kinds of decisions and opinions and what's the best way to start?

Robert:

I say to anybody who's contemplating, you know, renovating their house or building a new house, that's the best time to think about these things, because these are things that are relatively expensive after you're done, but that can be done for almost no cost when you're in the process of designing your house. As you know, the product that you're representing is about planning in advance and executing on those plans, right. Every good architect knows that it's easy and inexpensive to change a line on the drawing.

Grace:

Absolutely.

Robert:

When you are in construction it becomes very, very expensive. So the idea is to really think ahead and plan ahead. So in that critical time, when you're talking to contractors, you're talking to architects, have it in your mind that this is an objective, that actually I don't want to be paying for fuel in the future. We all know that the price of fuel even if it's $2 a gallon, like you said, I don't want to wait for an oil change.

I don't want my spark plug, you know, like all the rest of the mechanical stuff. I have no interest in waiting in the dealership anymore, and it's just not something I do or want to do in the future. If you want that to be a part of your future, and you want cleaner air in your house and better appliances that actually cost less money than standard stuff, it's easy to do it up front. It's a little bit more trickier to retrofit going forward, but that's certainly possible as well.

I just heard the Southern California Edison, we teach a class for Southern California Edison, they just announced a $1,000 rebate for heat pump hot water heaters, so that's basically the cost of the unit. They want these things to be on the market because for them, they know that it's reducing the pollution that goes into the air. Number one, and if you think about a heat pump hot water heater has a tank to it, right 60 gallon tank, and that actually acts as a battery, if you will, it's a thermal battery, and so you can heat that hot water in off peak periods, and turn the unit off during the peak periods when the grid actually can't handle more of a load. You can time these things, or there's a demand for what they call demand elements to them, where they can be switched on and off to help the grid have resiliency as well. You would never know the difference because there's enough water in there that you can take three or four showers and not even notice the difference when the thing is off or on. So there's a lot of intelligence built into these things that the tankless gas Hot Water Heaters currently don't have and couldn't do.

Grace:

That's really interesting. Well, we have to dive a little bit deeper on that, and so now as a pro when they are approaching thinking about these kinds of problems, and not all homeowners are as versed as you are. How would they even start having a conversation because there's initial reaction or misconception that it is going to be costing a lot more? So, how would they start those conversations? And are there tools for them to show, here's a regular construction based on your scope, and here's what you do, if you do consider the sustainable options, and then here's, you know, whatever percentage on average cooking and what the trade off or the benefit could be down the road?

Robert:

Yeah, this is the tricky part, because the least expensive thing for the architect to do, as you know, Grace, is to basically build the same building that they just built. Right? For them, that's the easiest and cheapest thing to do. I used to be a consultant, at one of the largest architectural and engineering firms in the world, and they knew that very well, if you can recycle your plans, you know, it's much less expensive than creating something from new. So, what I tell people you have to go to somebody who's actually done it, right, who actually knows what they're doing, and so they don't have to reinvent it, they've already done it, they've already invented it, and they can share with you the next iteration of their design. As opposed to getting somebody to switch from their old technology into a new technology, in my experience, that's very hard to do. Sometimes very painful.

Grace:

But there are a lot of young professionals coming into the industry and trying to break through, and they find the things that they care about and are passionate about is Sustainable Design, and they do care about these kind of nuances and how to make sure that for longevity, for their future generations to actually start now. So we can actually pay back and see the dividends in their lifetime, and so for them, obviously having those conversation with homeowners sometime, you know, like we just talked about, it is not most convenient discussions or pleasant discussion where you talk about, well, I'm gonna increase your budget about 10% more, just because we believe this is the right thing to do. Oftentimes,  It may be the right thing to do, but I only got this much, and as we all know, if we can convince them or educate them is enough, where they have that knowledge, they will willing to offer that 10% knowing that in the long term it actually pays off, or more than what they're investing at this point.

Robert:

So Grace, I appreciate that. And number one, the young people are really sometimes the only thing that gives me hope, and so I appreciate that perspective. Oftentimes when we were doing tours for our projects, we would have very specific tours for young architects, because when they were sitting there and one of them, you know, looked up at me says ‘how do you know all this’? He looked at me and we were talking about passive heating and cooling stuff, and I said, “Wait a minute, you're in architecture school how do you not know this,” he says “You don't understand.” They don't teach us this stuff, we have to learn this stuff in other places. I think there's, you know, I think it is shifting, though, you know, it is shifting and more, there is more understanding that this is the norm. So I think that one piece of it is to help people understand when they're talking to homeowners, it's not more expensive. At this point, we know that we can do this for the same cost, or less than if you consider that for our house, for example, if we wanted to put a tankless hot water heater in, we would have had to replace the gas line coming in, you can't use the three quarter inch line, you need a one inch line, right? To trench, that gas line into my home alone would have been $7,000. Right? You can buy a lot of solar panels for $7,000, and then to then take that piping into the house and then move it around for a gas stove, or gas furnace, all the rest of that piping, it's about $1,000 per unit to move it around. So right off the bat, if I don't need to do that trenching, you're immediately saving a lot of money. The second thing is if I don't need to deal with one more utility, I don't have to wait for them to install their meter and inspect the line. And guess what, with a gas trench, I can't put anything else in that trench, so what you have to do is then have another trench for the electric, sewer, and everything else that we put in the other trench. So this is nothing but an add on cost at that point. So we were saving money from the get go by just simply cutting off the gas line, so if you can help, you know, owners understand that there's an opportunity for money savings, and just like I explained with the wall assembly, if you stack up enough of those small things, you actually end up being in the black instead of the red with these kinds of buildings.

Grace:

And just think about oftentimes people with the front yard, backyard, or whatnot. trees grow over years, the roots start growing through the trenches, and all the piping are bursting because of what happens. And then just think about the mains coming back for us reconstructing this whole thing. As you're talking and thinking, you're right, absolutely, I actually didn't make the connection until just now talking with you. It's really fascinating.

Robert:

Make it simple. That's the key, make it simple. And that's just one bit of complexity that we don't need anymore. We just simply don't need it.

Grace:

Yeah, as technology advances, we really need to be starting now. And truthfully, like you mentioned, we have these great thinkers out there and a thought leader like yourself, look at the overall strategy and look at how we constructing a building, where things that we can minimize and reduce is start taking those out and just looking at the purity of what's supposed to be? It’s a home you create for your family that’s safe and comfortable and livable. That's the goal. Right? That's it, though, started taking nothing, things that don't need to be there, and really distilled down to the essentials, and still have a credibility, I mean, just look at your house like an incredible space and the bright light coming through it just looks very comfortable. And third, you know, temperature moderated clearly. It's just exciting. And I love that when you're edgy. And you think about net zero. I know we have heard about the term net zero since I was in college. And fortunately, we had the privilege taking some classes, think about sustainable designs and really be mindful about things. But with the last few years, I recognize there's still debating about it. And I think timing is right, we have to do this now. Every house when they start construction have to begin to start those conversations. And when we started this conversation action will then start taking

Robert:

You've got it Grace, and there's so many advantages. You know, we live it every day. So, you know, at a certain point for us. It's like the fish in the water. But in every room of the house, we never need to turn on a light if the sun is shining. Right? So simple thing, but the design dictated that right. We knew we wanted the windows to operate a very specific way so that we would never need to turn on artificial light in the house and the house as a result of that is a joy to be in. The technologies are so much better. The heat pump hot water heater that we were talking about, it's a fascinating piece of technology that really needs no maintenance. If you have a tankless hot water heater that has a yearly schedule to be cleaned, expensive, gets very expensive, and who wants to deal with the plumber coming to your house every year to clean that thing and you know more. And as you mentioned in an emergency, what happens? You know, in an earthquake, what happens, we know what happens, the water gets cut off,  the gas gets cut off. If that happens in my house, I can turn those things back on, and a tankless hot water heater has about three ounces of water in it. Right, my tank has 50 gallons of fresh drinking water in it. So in the case of an emergency, I have 50 gallons of fresh drinking water. I think there's a public health aspect to this thing that we're not really calibrating into, you know, a resiliency aspect of having a tank of fresh 50 gallons of fresh drinking water, in case that thing happens, which we know it will happen, so not only is there less chance of fire and explosion by not having gas in the building, but these things have resiliency aspects to them that, you know, go even beyond that. So, yeah, it's better, it's faster, it's cheaper to build all electric at this point.

Grace:

You convinced me, I love it. And so I'm also interested in your perspective, you have such extensive knowledge of, let's say, East Coast, though, but the climate is quite different, even across the pond to Europe and so forth, and Asia, how are they? How are they thinking about these kinds of patterns? I know in Europe and Asia, some of the time some of the countries are a little bit more advanced than we are?

Robert:

Yeah. So it's, it's interesting. Um, there's some developers that I'm familiar with, and we climbed on a telephone conference about a year ago, who were doing development in Philadelphia for $167 a square foot, they built a multi family, multifamily, multifamily, beautiful apartments, and their objective was to make it less expensive for the tenants. Yes, for $167 square foot, they made a net zero energy, zero carbon apartment building in Philadelphia, downtown Philadelphia. So this is, in that severe climate. Civil right. As we know, the, you know, the price of things is different in Philadelphia than they are in Southern California, so that allowed them to get to that number. Our number was about $200 a square foot.

Grace:

Cheaper than regular construction, actually.

Robert:

It is less expensive than regular construction. So all this is possible, but they understood if you don't need the gas line, if you don't need those additional boilers, if you don't need all the chases that are required to get that gas out of the top of the building, right, if all that stuff is eliminated, you end up with a roof plane, that's much cleaner and better for the installation of solar panels actually. So these things work hand in hand one with the other, if you plan it out correctly.

You mentioned across the pond, I’ve had the honor of working in an innovation school as a guest lecturer for eight years, and to see what Scandinavia has done from an environmental standpoint, and a sustainability standpoint, with their buildings and their technology. They're probably five to seven years ahead of us, and as a result, they reap the rewards in a very severe climate. They're able to do net zero energy for no additional cost, and they set up cities that have made commitments to net zero energy cities. So you know, what's the saying? The future is here, It's just unevenly distributed.

Grace:

You're right and just even, fly into Denmark, you can definitely in Copenhagen you can see in the ocean, there's all these windmills.

Robert:

Yes. Oh, great.

Grace:

You're apparently fascinating how they do things and they're far more advanced even just a few years ago when I went to Iceland, just how they use energy.

Robert:

Yeah, geothermal.

Grace:

Yes. Yes. And I just love how these countries are advancing based on their physical location, geographic condition, and they're able to leverage those and use it to their advantage so they can be sustainable in that regard. Absolutely. So clearly I can talk to you for hours you’re such a fascinating person. What tips would you advise someone who's new to this industry and say, Hey, I love to, you know, learn and do things and how would they get started? What advice would you give them?

Robert:

There's so many good resources right now. I mean, what wasn't possible 10 years ago is definitively possible today, the price of solar and the batteries, and, you know, most of the technologies are dropping like a stone. And, the access to the information is, you know, is incredible. Southern California Edison, for example, has put out a series of key study books, our house was featured in one of those case studies, for free. So you can find those books online for free from the utilities, and the amount of information that is easily accessible. It’s tremendous at this point. So there's no, there's no difficulty there, finding the people, sometimes who can put it all together is sometimes the difficult part. And that's where just like you did reach out to people who have done it, who understand what is possible, and they generally have a very good network as well. So somebody contacted me today from Southern California, and said, “Hey, do you I'm trying to install a heat pump hot water heater, and I can't find a plumber, an electrician? Do you know somebody?” I said, “Absolutely,” and I plugged them right into the guys who did our house, and you know, they did a tremendous job. And so, you know, the good people tend to know good people, in my experience, and so you know, just tap into, you know, myself or other people who have done it, and we're happy to help.

Grace:

Wow, you're such an inspiration. So all right, how would people get in touch with you? Clearly, there'll be like, glue to this session, just dying, taking those Seriously? How would they get in touch with you?

Robert:

Oh, so they're more than welcome to email me. They can reach me at fortunato@foreststrategy.com. or forward to us at info@Foreststrategy.com. Then feel free to, you know, some of these, we've tried to make it accessible for everybody, we did a TED talk. So if you put in my name, and you put TEDx, you'll see the background on that, and in their articles and other things, you know, to get a sense of what we've done. But you know, I'm happy to field questions. I'm probably meeting a new person probably once a week, and it's a joy to help people with whatever they're trying to do in this space. I'm happy to do it.

Grace:

Well, thank you so much for elevating our knowledge and inspiring us and netzero now it doesn't sound that foreign anymore. When you break down a lot, the process, everything is doable.

Robert:

So it is doable.

Grace:

So much, Robert, really appreciates all your time and your wisdom.

Robert:

My pleasure, thank you for the time and for sharing with everybody. You know your genius as well, in the communications and especially as a perspective, as an architect and somebody in the field. It's really helpful.

Grace:

Looking forward to having more discussions with you in the future.

Robert:

Thank you. Thank you.

Grace:

Thanks for listening to this episode of revivify podcasts, where we talk with Robert Fortunato, about how he and his family use simple strategies and off the shelf technologies to build their natural energy, zero carbon home. They use details such as how their home and major windows are oriented, and using energy efficient appliances has experienced really proves that building green is no longer the edgy choice. It is now the realistic and the most cost and energy efficient option. net zero energy and zero carbon building practices are compelling options for anyone interested in owning high quality home, saving money on energy bills and improve the environment. I hope you were as inspired by what Robert shared as I was. Thanks again for listening, and we'll see you next time.