Semmes & Co: Green Builders on the Central Coast

 SPRING 2012| San Luis Obispo, CA     
North County Green Living Fair
Welcome aboard Bruce!
The Things I Have Learned
Advanced Framing
GreenSite Award!
Energy Audit, A Matter of Health
What's your favorite feature?


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.


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North County Green Living Fair 

Saturday, March 17th from 10 am to 5pm

at the Idler's Appliance location in Paso Robles

For more info, see the article below or CLICK HERE!



Saturday, April 21st from 9am to 1pm

at the Bob Jones Trail. For more info, CLICK HERE!



The best way to be "Green" on St. Patrick's Day, by Timothy "always dancin' a jig" Kelly     


Semmes & Co Builders, a partner in the Green Living Coalition, is helping put together the North County Green Living Fair. This Eco life-style event will be held on Saturday March 17th, (St. Patrick's Day---the perfect day to be "Green") at Idler's on 2361 Theatre Drive in Paso Robles from 10am-5pm. This event is a great opportunity to meet and talk with folks from our local green businesses.


Who is the Green Living Coalition? Semmes & Co has partnered with local sustainable builders, Green Goods, ecological landscape specialists, Sage Landscapes, Pacific Coast Kitchen & Bath our local experts on water conserving commodes and faucets, and energy star appliance specialist, Idlers Appliances to bring knowledge and awareness to our communities. Paso Robles Chevrolet will be showcasing the exciting electric Chevy Volt, Solarponics, our local Solar energy experts, Hayward Lumber purveyors of sustainable building materials, People's Choice HVAC retrofitters for home energy efficiency, and Farm Supply, supporters of local rural and urban farmers for the last 60years, will all be on hand as co-sponsors. Green Fair sponsors will each give a 15 minute seminar sharing their green expertise and will have booths set up all day to answer your questions.


The Green Living Fair is chance to meet with local experts to learn what each of us can do to make our homes and our lives more Green.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!




   After an extensive 4-month selection process, Semmes & Co Builders has found just the right person to replace Turko as our Customer Service and Sales Manager. His name is Bruce Severance.   He started with us inJanuary and is already working on several new projects.  

   Bruce came to SLO County 14 years ago from the LA area. His background in design, construction, and product development is a natural fit for Semmes & Co and he is certified as an energy specialist through the Building Performance Institute. And if you're interested in electric cars, stop by and ask him! Bruce was also involved in the early stages of electric car development. Previous to joining the Semmes family, he ran a very successful sign company which was responsible for many of the signs you see around SLO County.

   Over the last 30+ years we have developed close relationships with all of you and it is very important to us that you get to know Bruce. I am sure he will continue to support these bonds as he develops others well into the future. Please welcome Bruce as the newest member of the Semmes & Company family!  


The Things I Have Learned, by Turko Semmes

    When I started Semmes & Co over 33 years ago (then known as Semmes & Sun) it was a small 2-3 person company with a passion for doing passive solar houses. One of our early projects was a simple 1800 sqft square foot home in Templeton. I did the plans (at night) and pounded nails during the day. The house had perfect orientation; the walls were made from 2x6 studs at 24"oc on center (which was unheard of at the time); the insulation was a blown-in fiberglass (also unheard of); and we installed masonry Trombe Walls along the entire southern lower half of the wall.  

    The owners were wonderful to work with; we became lifelong friends; and they raved about their almost non-existent energy bills. Several years after we finished the house, I got a call during the Christmas holidays from their relatives staying at the house while they were out of town. They could not get the wall furnace to work. I dropped everything and drove over. After a quick analysis I realized the thermostat had never been hooked up. A screwdriver later and they were in business. When my clients came home I shared the story with them. We got a good laugh out of it. They still live there; they still don't use the furnace; they spend around $25/month on their utility bills.  

    The sun comes up every day, and passive solar works every day. Do you live in a passive solar home? 

Advanced Framing, By Tom Moore

   Here at Semmes and Company we are known for using materials that are creative alternatives not considered to be the norm in the building industry: straw bale, rammed earth and insulated concrete forms to name a few. In the old days, when the industry was booming, it was not uncommon to hear other contractors say,' we don't do that, take it to Semmes'.

   Well here's a news flash, we also build using the industry standard, wood. Albeit, we try a slightly different twist know as advanced framing. This methodology reduces the amount of wood required in a building by employing techniques such as 2-foot centers for studs, single top-plates and engineered lumber. In addition to reducing the amount of sawn lumber which must be cut from larger trees, it allows us to use more insulation and reduces the thermal transfer through studs.

   Advanced framing is not the end-all in sustainability but it is a small part and as you know, every little bit helps.


For more detailed information, check out this article on Advanced Framing


Recent project wins GreenSite Award

The Coastal Rammed Earth project designed by Ben Korman and built by Semmes & Co Builders has been selected by Concrete Producer and Concrete Construction magazines as the Residential Project of the Year for 2011. The "winning projects were those that best exemplified the concrete industry's contribution to sustainable construction."


"These projects take advantage of concrete's inherent attributes, resulting in some energy efficient buildings that minimize their impact on the environment," said Bill Palmer, Editor in Chief of Concrete Construction Magazine. "Not only that - there are some really cool buildings included among the winners that should provide great ideas to those planning green buildings."


The winning projects were featured in the Sept/Oct 2011 issue of The Concrete Producer and the Nov 2011 issue of Concrete Construction. GreenSite is a cooperative venture between the magazines and Hanley Wood's World of Concrete trade show which took place in January 2012 in Las Vegas where the awards were presented. 


To see the other winners, visit GreenSite.


Energy Audits Are A Matter of Health

    There has been a great deal of debate recently, both at the local and state levels regarding mandates to require energy auditing on residences at the time of sale. The California Association of Realtors vehemently and categorically opposes mandated energy audits and or any other disclosures that increase the profusion of documents already required during escrow. Even the greener realtors in local associations of Realtors have expressed some resistance to additional disclosure requirements. Their opposition is understandable. The real estate market is just beginning to recover and and buying and selling houses and obtaining loans is far more complex and difficult than it has ever been ....





"That's a tough one, but if we're limited to only one, I'd say it would be our kitchen counter top (Eco by Cosentino, Riverbed from Green Goods in SLO) .  It's predominantly made of car mirrors and windshields with a binder added.  It's a beautiful color, and compliments our cabinets beautifully!" - 

Jeff and Nell Wade



ECO by Cosentino (

  • mirrors salvaged from houses, building and factories;
  • glass from windshields, windows and bottles;
  • granulated glass from consumer recycling practices;
  • porcelain from china, tiles, sinks, toilets and ECO by Cosentino elements
  • 94% Recycled Water
  • 99% of VOC purification at the factory
  • Quarry Restoration



On April 21st, Habitat for Humanity of San Luis Obispo County is hosting their second annual Hike for Habitat fundraiser.  You are invited to help Habitat and your neighbors by walking the Bob Jones Trail from 9 to 1pm.    


The Bob Jones Trail is a delightful, 3 mile, multi-use trail to the sea along San Luis Obispo Creek.  Starting at the Ontario Road Park & Ride, it traverses a rocky hillside with mature oaks for shade, then crosses a golf course and the creek to enter Avila Beach and ends at the ocean.  The entire trail is flat and easy to negotiate on foot, bikes, strollers, with pets or with a group of children!  You can hike from either direction, Habitat will have Welcome Stations at both ends.  We are offering hourly 'launches' from the Sea Life Center in Avila, which you can visit for free with your hike ticket and participate in an ocean habitat activity.    The trail will be filled with family friendly activities. Visit each station and receive an additional surprise at the end of your day.  


Come out and hike! Your day on the trail will help us cut the ribbon on our next home.     For more information on this event, or to get involved in their efforts here is San Luis Obispo County, contact them at 805-782-0687 or at