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Local & State News

Published Saturday, June 2, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News

Hidden Villa puts `green' architecture on display

Mercury News

Hidden Villa's half-century of teaching how to live gently on this Earth is about to add a new chapter.

 Nestled discreetly in the preserve's 1,600 wooded acres in Los Altos Hills, one new building and one old will be dedicated today as the latest examples of how far ``green'' construction has come. A renovated hostel and brand-new education building will celebrate environmentally smart, technologically available and economically attractive construction -- and that's been the idea right from the start.

That means these buildings feature interior rammed-earth walls to create thermal mass and geothermal heat pumps for radiant heating and cooling through floor tubing. The wood is either recycled -- some salvaged from the original hostel -- or produced in certified sustainable harvests. The ceilings are made from waste straw and the insulation from recycled newspaper. Compared with conventional electricity systems, photovoltaic power cells provide enough savings to pay for themselves within 20 years; the rising costs in today's energy landscape are shortening this payback period to seven or eight years, Hidden Villa Executive Director Judith Steiner said.

 ``We wanted to show this is doable -- and get people saying, `I want to do it,' '' Steiner said. ``We wanted to get people excited about the concept.''

 Because the institution has long been demonstrating farming techniques that sustain rather than deplete resources, choosing recycled, low-energy-produced materials was just another way to ``walk our talk in everything we do,'' Steiner said.

 The buildings will be open for tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with architects and builders on hand to answer questions. Admission is free, although a $5 parking donation is appreciated. The picnic areas and trails will be open until dusk. 

Hidden Villa is at 26870 Moody Road. Call (650) 949-9702 for more information or see

Contact S.L. Wykes at or (650) 688-7599. Fax (650) 688-7555.

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