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California Dreamin’ at Claire’s Bakery

Credits: ©2010 Eco-Structure / Joseph H. Mayton III

Born of a predilection to serve healthy food, organic coffee, and an array of other culinary creations, in August 2009, Claire’s on Cedros bakery and café opened in the seaside town of Solana Beach, Calif. In running the environmentally/family/dog-friendly eatery, its owners, Claire Allison and Terrie Boley, feel they’ve created what Boley likens to “the TV series ‘Cheers,’ for breakfast and lunch … only no beer.” Aside from the absence of spirits on the menu, another decided difference between the locales is its sustainable strategies in its green building that include 54 solar panels providing about 30 percent of the site's power. Allison, a professional baker and veteran of the restaurant industry, and her friend, Boley, set out to open a breakfast and lunch spot housed in a California beach bungalow. Over a year and a half, they met with architect Jean-Louis Coquereau, president of JLC Architecture, to transform a 1920s residency with an atypical layout into a modern, sustainable eatery.



At Claire's on Cedros Bakery, a 1920s residence was transformed into a sustainable eatery in San Diego, California. The original bungalow on the 20,000-square-foot lot was razed (with 75 percent of demolition waste recycled or reused) and replaced with two structures that fit in the original footprint. ©2010 Juergen Nogai / Eco-Structure Magazine

After determining that it was not practical to rehab the original bungalow on the 20,000-square foot lot across from the Solana Beach train station, the owners decided to raze it. Two new structures were conscientiously designed to stay within the original footprint. Allison and Boley were granted permits to demolish and rebuild, and diverted more than 75 percent of the demolition and construction waste from landfills for recycling or reuse during the process.

Coquereau says that the inspiration for Claire’s came from the developers’ shared dream of a green restaurant on a green site. The mixed-use project features two separate structures: a 2,500-square-foot restaurant/bakery building and a 700-square-foot commercial space that is connected to an 850-square-foot apartment building.

The sustainable decisions came naturally. “We built the kind of restaurant that we wanted to go to,” says Boley. “We didn’t say ‘We want a green building.” The duo began by incorporating design strategies that carried no real cost difference but were, they considered, the right thing to do.

Although Coquereau says no LEED goal initially was set for the project, the two partners became curious as to what certifications were attainable. Allison and Boley soon turned that inquisitiveness into a pursuit of credits that began with incorporating solar panels. A verified method of keeping recurring energy costs down, Boley recalls that the addition of the solar panels also signified the point where the quest for green became competitive as the design team gathered the gumption to aim for Platinum certification. “Very little concessions were made after the owners decided to reach LEED Platinum,” Coquereau says.

A total of 54 photovoltaic panels on the commercial building and an adjacent carport produce renewable power on site for the buildings, and they are designed to cover an estimated 37 percent of Claire’s core and shell energy usage. Along those same lines, the purchase of renewable energy certificates that cover the generation of 80,000 kWh of clean, renewable energy annually, equates to some 75 percent of the development’s overall power use.

According to Coquereau, no energy modeling was produced up front, but as the certification goals changed, so, too, did the systems. “We had to perform energy modeling and redesign the mechanical systems to reach the new goals,” Coquereau says. “We have ongoing solar system data reporting. We have, of course, metering of utilities that we will periodically review. We also had commissioning of the mechanical systems.”

Some of the sustainable features that Coquereau finds most interesting include the use of pervious concrete, hydronic heating, edible surroundings (some 90 percent of the landscaping is edible herbs and fruits that the kitchen puts to use), the photovoltaic system, and an indoor-air-quality-enhancing CO2 sensor. Boley half-jokingly refers to this sensor as the “angry customer light,” which is illuminated when air quality is poor, but it is easily corrected by manually flipping a switch on an interior mechanical systems.

Coquereau says that the mechanical systems are all performing as envisioned. “The owners and their employees have to be proactive in the control of the flexible temperature control systems,” he notes.

Other sustainable attributes include several cool roofs and a green roof that help reduce the heat island effect. In crafting the structures on site, JLC used a combination of concrete block, redwood siding, and hardi-plank siding. The concrete contains 16 percent recycled content and combines the interior finish, structure, and exterior finish into one material, reducing maintenance needs; the redwood and hardi-plank siding are durable and require little maintenance.

Claire’s on Cedros’ sustainable initiatives, however, aren’t limited to the structures themselves. The project has become an educational tool: a University of California, San Diego extension class has toured the project and Coquereau will be teaching another extension class focusing on it. The Solana Beach City Council has honored the project, which continues to draw business owners and clients for tours. In addition, patrons can take a self-guided tour of the LEED-installed components. Perhaps most important is that Claire’s—as a whole—is in harmony with the character of the community in Solana Beach.

“We have a vested interest in the community,” Boley says. “We are land owners. The community really likes that, and appreciates the effort put into the building.” In the end, two friends that care about this world built a building that reflects it and, perhaps, that reflects the heart of the green building movement.

Sustainable Attributes

  • Bicycle racks at the front of the site provide storage while all employees on site have access to a shower and changing room to encourage commuting by bike.

  • A green roof not only reduces irrigation needs on site, but also helps reduce stormwater runoff.
  • The parking lot is paved in pervious concrete that allows water to pass through it, improving nearby coastal water quality and reducing stormwater runoff.
  • Low-flow toilets and urinals and sensor-activated faucets reduce water consumption by about 40 percent compared with traditional bathroom fixtures.
  • In addition to employing passive heating from the sun, the commercial space and apartment are heated by hydronic floor heating when needed.
  • Two installations of photovoltaic panels produce enough renewable energy on site to cover 37 percent of core and shell energy use.
  • The restaurant appliances are energy efficient and, where possible, Energy Star–qualified units.
  • Choosing concrete block with 16 percent recycled content as a main building material combined interior finish, structure, and exterior finish in one material, eliminating the need for maintenance or refinishing.
  • Recycled blue jeans are used in the insulation for the walls and ceilings.
  • A cool aluminum roof aims to help reduce heat island effect.
  • Recycling and composting practices aim to keep much of Claire’s on Cedros’ waste stream out of a landfill and future plans include recycling kitchen grease into bio-diesel.
  • Abundant operable windows and clear sightlines ensure that anyone on site has a nine out of 10 chance of an outdoor view.
  • All of the wood products used in construction were free of urea-added formaldehyde resins, reducing VOCs in the indoor air. In addition, low-VOC paints, stains, and interior finishes were specified.
  • A green cleaning program aims to reduce potentially hazardous chemical contaminants indoors.
    Joseph H. Mayton III is a freelance author and technical writer/editor based out of Ferndale, Mich.


JLC Architecture (California, USA)

Claire's on Cedros Bakery