Semmes & Co: Green Builders on the Central Coast

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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.



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

Semmes & Co. Builders.


For more information and additional resources

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North County Green Living Fair on

Saturday, March 17th (St. Patrick's Day!) at

Idler's in Paso Robles


Stay tuned for more on this and other local events!


Recent project wins USGBC4 Green Home Award!  
USGBC4 Green Awards   





The Coastal Rammed Earth home in Cambria, CA, which was designed by Ben Korman and built by Semmes & Co Builders, has won USGBC4's Green Home Award! 


   The house features a 28-foot tapered poured-in-place concrete tower which supports the large curved glue-laminated beams composing the main structure, and acts as a chimney stack to extract unwanted heat on warm days. A circulating fan was added to the tower to return desired heat to the space on cooler days. The main heat source for the residence is the radiant floor heating system within the black concrete floor, which was left exposed and polished with 3000-grit and sealed with a non-toxic sealer. The northern exterior walls are of rammed earth construction, while south and western walls are of custom argon-filled dual-pane glass to maximize the views towards the ocean. Deep overhangs on the south side of the residence reduce heat gain in the summer, while allowing sun penetration in the winter months. The western glass, which encloses the master suite and bath, is shaded by oak trees, which provide additional privacy to the space.  


   Solar panels integrated into the breezeway and overhangs provide all of the home's energy needs. Materials were chosen for their quality, beauty and strength. Great attention was paid to the details in the fabrication of all custom elements; this included weathered steel doors and windows and built-in furniture and cabinetry, all of which were fabricated locally by central coast artisans. All of these features make this house a truly sustainable home while giving it timeless beauty and ensuring it will be here for a long time.  



   I have been building passive solar homes since the late 70's. I was introduced to Passive Solar design and construction by two of the leaders in the field for the past 40 years. They are Ken Haggard, architect in San Luis Sustainability Group and retired architectural professor at Cal Poly, and Phil Niles who is a thermal engineer, a retired professor from Cal Poly, and one of the developers of the original energy modeling software and still making improvements on it today. But it wasn't until the late 80's that a friend shared a 1949 issue of Fortune magazine about solar, radiant heating, and special building materials of the future, that I realized where my real roots in passive solar came from. 

Basic passive arrangements

  I was born into passive solar. My first experiences came from the home my mother

and father built when I was born in Maryland outside of Washington D.C., and which they lived in for over 50 years. They'd read that very same Fortune magazine and modeled their house plans on it. Some of these principles were: orient the major glass to the south with proper overhangs, use good insulation, provide thermal mass (slate floors and concrete block walls), use radiant heating, and a whole house fan for ventilation. This house still works great today. As I learned the principles of passive solar design and construction from the leaders in the field it always felt so obvious and common sense.  Thanks Mom and Dad! - Turko Semmes




   Our family of five has the incredible good fortune to live in a passive solar home built by Semmes and Co and designed by Scott Clark of the San Luis Sustainability Group ~ and from top to bottom its every breath and function was with sustainability and eco-consciousness in mind.  And yet, despite the pleasures of solar heated floors, or the beauty of earthen plastered straw bale walls - hands down my favorite eco-conscious feature is the Metland recirculating pump recommended by our incredible design and building team.  

    There is a pump at each sink powered by a discreet little white button that has become known as the "magic button" to our family and friends.  It is so easy and so delightful to have hot water run directly from the tap without "running the water".  HOW IT WORKS!

    Are there others out there who would be as tickled as I at the value this feature represents to us the homeowners as well as the local water table?  I think so. In fact everyone we have recommended them to that has enjoyed them in their own homes seems to echo the sentiment.  How can these not be in every home, at every sink in America!?! It seems a recirculating revolution is in order. Think of the water we would save, and the pleasure in knowing your tap will be hot on demand without waste.  Easy to install and inexpensive to purchase (all things relative) I have become an unlikely advocate for a home appliance I hadn't even heard of just a few years ago.   Others might argue there are other more noble paths to salvation of the planet and the great environmental turning - but I am sure the recirculating pump has its place on the road to our collective environmental greatness.  A Metland pump in every home, I say.  Come by and can take ours for a spin and perhaps be inspired to find your own.  


In gratitude! ~ Lindsay Pera and her hot shower loving clan: Casey, Sage, Cricket and Ember



Semmes earns PG&E ClimateSmart Award

Since enrolling in PG&E's ClimateSmart program in May of 2011, Semmes & Co Builders has offset 1 ton of green house gas emmisions! The program is a simple, voluntary and tax-deductible way to balance out these GHG emissions through environmental conservation, restoration and protection projects. With the support of over 30,000 PG&E residential and 700 business customers, the ClimateSmart program in increased awareness of the connection between energy use and climate change, while helping to establish the infrastructure for a low-carbon economy in California. To learn more about this innovative program, visit their website!





ANTA is a community based volunteer organization dedicated to the preservation of Atascadero's native trees. Members organize and participate in a variety of programs and activities designed to teach the values of trees in our environment and help us appreciate and protect our urban forest resources.


In addition to our tree planting projects and participating in Atascadero's oak seedlings give away ANTA has taken part in the production of the annual Woodlands and Watersheds Calendar that is distributed by the Atascadero Mutual Water Company.  For many years ANTA has also given scholarships to Atascadero High School graduating seniors who plan majors in a field relating to our environment.


Become a more effective voice in the preservation and regeneration of Atascadero's urban forest by getting involved! Visit or call (805) 466-8781.