San Jose's first green home back on the market – The Mercury News

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SAN JOSE — The humble tract house transformed into a showcase of cost-effective green technology by late San Jose State University environmental studies professor Frank Schiavo is back on the market.

But prospective buyers are going to need more than money if they want to call 1186 Bayard Drive home.

Owner Eaden Saw is seeking to sell the three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,155-square-foot dwelling in the Yerba Buena neighborhood to someone who will maintain its eco-friendly features, including a specially designed 40-foot south-facing sun room that helps heat the home.

“I fell in love with this house at first sight,” said Saw, who purchased it in 2010 after Schiavo died. The listing price then was $399,000.

“I knew that this was the very first green house of San Jose and so special that the community tried to buy it and donate it to the city as an education facility,” the retired engineer and entrepreneur continued. “I told myself, ‘If I can afford it, I’ll fulfill their wish.’”

A number of business ventures didn’t work out the way Saw had hoped they would and she now finds herself in need of funds to support her retirement. She wants to return to her native Taiwan, where she plans to devote the rest of her life to practicing Buddhism.

The listing price for the home is $699,888.

Saw said she was sorry she could not continue Schiavo’s work to promote so-called passive solar technology like the sun room.

“Now, I only wish that the next owner of this precious house can truly appreciate its spirit and take good care of it,” she said. “However, as Frank said, the principles of the house aren’t revolutionary. Everyone can take some of the steps he did and make a huge difference in energy conservation. Let’s hope that this concept can be spread further.”

Schiavo designed the sun room to trap solar energy during the winter in bricks laid on the floor, which then bounces into stacks of water-filled aluminum tanks. The “water walls” work in reverse during the summer, allowing heat to escape. In 2001, this newspaper featured a story about Schiavo when his average monthly PG&E bill was $11.

The dwelling boasts a number of other eco-friendly features including double-pane windows with thermal curtains, a UV reflective roof coating and insulated fiber-cement shingles — all of which help keep the interior a comfortable 70 degrees year round.

The retrofit reportedly cost Schiavo about $25,000.

Schiavo, who taught at SJSU from 1974 to 2003 and was dubbed the “messiah of the environment,” regularly took students and strangers alike on tours through the home.

“It was a demonstration house for the school system,” said Sigmond Beck, a contractor who worked with Schiavo to build more than 70 green homes. “It was not only that, it was an experiment in process from the ’70s. We upgraded it and upgraded it.”

They didn’t always meet with success and Winchester Mystery House-like reminders remain. For example, a pair of small wooden trapdoors, including one in the vaulted ceiling of the living room, conceal failed attempts at natural air-conditioning, Beck said.

A pair of exterior murals commissioned by Schiavo and an inscription on the driveway advising passersby to eat organic fruits aand vegetables also contribute to the quirky character of the home.

“It’s easy to make a contemporary home, but it’s not easy to make a home that looks like this,” said Saw’s real estate broker Valerie Trang.

Interest is already high thanks to the Bay Area’s incandescent housing market, said Trang, who scheduled nine appointments within the first 12 hours of listing the home.

“It doesn’t take much to sell any home,” she said, “but the most important point here for Eaden — and for everyone involved in this project — is to find a buyer who is not going to come in here and tear everything down.”


Open houses are scheduled Saturday, Dec. 23, and Sunday, Dec. 24, from 1 to 4 p.m. For additional information, visit