Semmes & Co: Green Builders on the Central Coast

Fall 2011 Header
 FALL 2011 | San Luis Obispo, CA     
In case you missed it!
Strawbale Barn Raising
The Importance of Insulation
Semmes Crew Profile
Selling Your Home
Winterizing your Home
ALPS Dedicates New Preserve



Building or remodeling a home in San Luis Obispo County, Southern Monterey, or Northern Santa Barbara areas?


We would love to hear from you! Contact Emily at

805-466-6737 x 207 or 

to discuss your project.



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Welcome to the Central Coast View featuring news and sustainable building resources from

Semmes & Co. Builders.


For more information and additional resources visit us at





Saturday, October 8th from 8am-2pm

Free Event hosted at The Paloma Community Garden.

For more information call Barbara at 805-466-4374.



Saturday, October 8th from 9am-2pm

$10 hosted by Atascadero Mutual Water Company.

Get tickets at Bay Laurel Nursery, Atascadero Chamber of Commerce, or at the AMWC office. For more information call 805-466- 7217x 721 or email



Wednesday, October 12th from 9am-12:15pm

$10 hosted by The Upper Salinas-Las Tables Resource Conservation Distric at the Bonnheim Family Ranch

For more information or to RSVP, call Shayna Bailey

at 805-434-0396 x 5 or email



Friday, October 28th 5:30pm - 10:00pm at Castoro Cellars

$75 to support SLO Green Build. Evening includes dinner, live music and auction. For more information and to purchase tickets, contact Jessica Steely at 805-466-6737 x 203 or email


Save Home Management Program$50
Comprehensive Property Performance Assessment
For a limited time, save $50 off the regular cost ($200) of a comprehensive review of your home and it's major resource using components and systems. This assessment generally takes 3 hours to complete and provides you with a customized home maintenance plan through our Home Management Program.
To learn more about this program and how it could benefit you and your family, download our informational FLYER or contact Kenny Northcote at 805-466-6737 x 206 or
Offer Expires: 12/31/2011

In case you missed it!

   On September 10th Semmes & Co Builders had our tri-annual Appreciation Party. It was a raging success and we hope you were there. Semmes are very lucky to work with some of the best clients, architects, consultants and trades people on the Central Coast. Thank you! One of the big happenings of the day was Turko's "special" announcement.  

   After 33 years, Turko is passing the company on to three employee owners. If you have worked with Semmes, they are folks you know well -- Paul Rose, Tom Moore, and Jessica Steely.  Ensuring that Semmes & Co Builders will be here well into the future, the three new owners established a process by which more employees will become owners down the road. Semmes will contiue providing high quality service, committed to building today for a better tomorrow, for years to come.

   But, don't worry - Turko will also be actively involved for the next three years, in his current role but also helping to train the new owners and to find replacements for the several hats he wears. We hope to see you at the next Appreciation Party in another 3 years. You are sure to see Turko there with a big smile on his face. 

Strawbale Barn Raising by Jessica Steely

Strawbales have been used as building materials for hundreds of years. During the industrial revolution, the development of the mechanized baler allowed for efficient and predictable baling. That combined with refinement of the plaster process allowed for the technique to become very popular for buildings with all types of uses. It has been reported that there are many strawbale structures still standing around the US after nearly 100 years.


Today, bale construction continues to have its draw.  Architecturally, thick wall construction is reminiscent of the old mission style adobe construction. Also the bales make for extremely productive insulation... up to R-40! Here on the Central Coast we use bales made of rice straw.

It is harvested from Northern California where they historically dowsed the harvested fields with diesel fuel to clear them for next year's crop as it is not digestible and is very resistant to its high silica content.


One of the other wonderful elements of bale construction is its simplicity. With minimal training and the right tools, neighbors, friends and family can participate in the raising of the home. The historic tradition of a barn raising comes to mind as communities join together to strengthen their bonds between one another.


Over the past 30 years Semmes & Co. Builders has hosted over 20 strawbale barn raising workshops. The reception has been phenomenal "Like a fine oiled machine, you guys plugged everyone in and got them to work!  Everyone learned something and felt like they contributed to something green.  Thanks for the hospitality as we all had a great time, and it was great to get our hands dirty with the construction." Paul Poirier, AIA, LEED AP, Paul Poirier + Associates Architects.


Semmes & Co looks forward to our next 20 Strawbale barn raising workshops. EMAIL US today to be added to our workshop contact list!

The Importance of Insulation

Insulation and house sealing seem like an over talked about issue, but in the scope of things there is more energy lost because of these two issues than any of the other energy use in a home. There is no point in having a super efficient heat or cooling system if the energy used to provide this comfort level is just allowed to exit the building at a mildly controlled rate.


Nationally it is estimated that 40% of a homes heat loss or gain is through the walls or roof, most of this is by leakage in a well insulated home. Insulation should always be placed in contact with the interior and exterior skin. These skins act as a pressure barrier to stop any air flow, thus allowing the insulation inhibit heat flow at a far greater efficiency. Otherwise it may just be acting as a "filter" for the air moving through it. The greatest amounts of leaks are around utility perforations in these skins (lights, outlets, plumbing etc.). These need careful attention in their detailing so that they do not become draft sources. In some cases (can lights being one) a more expensive fixture will pay for itself if it is a sealed fixture..


There are many types of insulation and sealers that are used in today's market. Some are Cellulose fiber (usually blown in), Fiberglass (either batting or blown in), Foam (blown on, or installed in sheets), Straw Bale, and many more. They all have their qualities and advantages, but they all need to be designed to work together to eliminate air and moisture travel. When considering these applications a knowledgeable person with current building science information should be consulted. These issues have become ever more complex as the number of materials, their applications, and History increase, and will continue to do so.


Semmes & Co. Builders has worked hard over the years to stay ahead of these developments and to provide our employees with the education necessary to continue to do so. We look forward to serving you! - Paul Rose

Semmes Crew Profile: Paul Rose Paul Rose

   Anyone who has known Semmes and Co. over the last 30 years has probably crossed paths with Paul Rose.

   Paul is one of the new employee owner but has been with Turko, off and on (mostly on) since the very beginning in 1978. He has been Head of Production for the last eight years. In this role, Paul has ensured that jobs run smoothly and flow from one phase or project to the next in a seamless order.   

   He spends much of his time working in the community on outreach programs such as SLO Green Build, the Atascadero Greenhounds and Community Garden. When he's not doing something for the good of the company or community, you'll probably find him out on some adventure with his lovely wife, Barbara, hiking in the Sierras, exploring the desert, surfing with his sons or hanging off a chunk of granite somewhere.

   Paul seems to have endless energy and to always channel it in a positive direction. As we head into a new phase at Semmes and Co., we know Paul will keep us trekking in the right direction with a level head, an eye on the future, and a smile on his face.     by Tom Moore


Selling Your Home

Selling your home faster and for more money is easy: build an energy efficient or "green" home, or remodel your existing home into one. We have been doing this at Semmes & Co for over 30 years and always thought this to be true. Now there is research that proves it. This is true even in the currently challenging real estate market.


Studies have shown that third party certification is key to selling faster and for a higher price. What is Third Party Certification? In new construction, a home can be modeled using certain features and specific techniques to determine before it's built how much energy it will use. In California, this is gauged against the energy code minimum referred to as Title-24. Our goal at Semmes is for the homes we build to surpass the Title-24 minimum by at least 30%. During construction and after the home is completed, a trained energy expert then certifies the features and quality ensuring that the anticipated energy savings will be met. When remodeling an existing home, Semmes begins with an energy audit to see what the current energy use levels are and determine where it can be improved. We then map out a plan for those goals (along with your functional needs like additions or the upgrade of kitchens and bathrooms). Similar to our process for new homes, a third party certifier will come through during and after the remodel to verify and certify the work.


Another significant issue that was lauded in the reports was that the investment needed to install these energy saving features such as solar electric, better insulation or windows, or energy efficient heating or lighting, kept much of its value for years to come. With non-energy efficient upgrades you are lucky if you can get 50% of the cost of remodeling your home back even a short time after the work is complete.


To read more about why green buildings are selling faster and for more money, go to this article in the LA Times,0,1773816. This is just one more reason to insist that energy efficiency be part of your plan when building or remodeling. It just makes $en$e.  - Turko Semmes


Get a Jump-start on

Winterizing your Home
Borrowed from "Winterizing your Home" by the Daily Green Staff of To read the complete article and view the slideshow, visit them HERE
  • Stop the drafts - install new weatherstripping and door bottoms
  • Change furnace filters - dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy demand
  • Run fans in reverse - clockwise rotation moves warm air pooled at the ceiling back down
  • Turn down your water heater - lowering the temperature to 120 F (or lower) would reduce your water heating costs by 6 - 10%.
  • Mind that thermostat - each degree you lower it can save 1-3% on your heating bill

Many of the additional tips and tricks are projects that our Home Management Program can handle for you. If you'd like to know more about having Semmes & Co ready your home for the coming season, contact Kenny Northcote at 805-466-6737 x 206 or



ALPS Dedicates Three Bridges Oak Preserve

A beautiful 103 acre tract of land in Atascadero was dedicated on September 23rd, 2011 as open space for the preservation of the land. The property will be made available for hiking, mountain biking, equestrian and nature appreciation.


The new owner of the land is the local non-profit Atascadero Land Preservation Society (ALPS). The society has participated in the Stadium Park, Atascadero Creek and Adobe Springs open space projects which have added public open space land for the beautification and enrichment of Atascadero.


The new acquisition is located on Highway 41 west, close to the three bridges. The property has been named Three Bridges Oak Preserve to reflect of the location and the large number and variety of oak trees on the property. Atascadero creek runs adjacent through part of the property helping to make the property diverse in terrain, wildlife and plant diversity. Acquisition was made possible with grants from the State Resources Agency's River Parkways Grant Program and the Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program administered by the California Department of Transportation.


The project is a cooperative effort involving ALPS, The Trust for Public Land and the California State Resources Agency with support from the City of Atascadero.


To learn more about the project, read the recent Tribune feature HERE. To get involved in this exciting new addition to Atascadero please visit the ALPS website at, or contact Bruce Bonifas, ALPS President, at