SOLD with 4 offers!

Grand custom contemporary three story Edwardian in Central Berkeley needs final touches. Extraordinary and inspired total renovation. Exceptional design/build standards and materials. Five bedroom and four baths with three master suites, San Francisco view deck, 14′ ceilings and mature garden. Extremely eco-conscious on an amazing scale.

Seller’s Comments About 1628 Blake Street:

1638 Blake sketchPhilosophy.

I acquired #1628 in the early ‘90s; it had stood since 1906 on a brick foundation and was in bad need of repair. Since I am a restoration contractor and environmentalist, the nascent project soon grew in scope. Amongst the design criteria were that the finished product should be as energy efficient as possible, low-tech passive design wherever possible, it should be very durable using modern techniques and materials, the space should be easily configurable for a variety of uses, it should exceed then current codes for wind or seismic overturning, and it should appear as if it could have been built that way back in ’06.


To maintain the integrity of the original structure, a minimal lift with a slab-on-grade was out of the question. The original ceilings were 10’, and this proportion was to be maintained in the new first floor. Due to zoning height restrictions, it was decided to excavate a basement to replace the 6’-odd sub-area of the original house. The raised second floor would lose 1’ due to the thickness of the new third floor but window proportions would remain as original. The interiors of the back portion of the first floor and the third floor would be a concession to a more modern design. The footprint of the building would increase only 4’ on two sides at the back. The ‘wedding-cake’ design for the third floor was to maintain a required 6’ setback from property lines for that floor.


The inverted ’T’ footings, isolated footings and the basement retaining wall contain 46 cubic yards of concrete placed at a 2” slump. Super-Plasticizers were used in the first 9 yards to facilitate the fill of the foot of the retaining wall in a ‘blind-side’ placement. All major rebar was 5/8 grade 60 with seismic hooks at every discontinuity. Embedded hardware was all S.S.T. except for the plate-bolting which was generic. This was a continuous placement done in a morning with no dry joints. I cannot remember the volume of the flat-work concrete, but the slabs are 4” thick and the one isolated footing in the basement slab is probably a foot thick. The basement is waterproofed with a Paraseal bentonite clay membrane and bentonite strips at the cold joint between the foot of the retaining walls and the slab. there is an external sump connected to a mirror-drain around the walls, and a sub-slab field drain; this mainly to relieve hydrostatic pressure that might tend to crack the joint between the inverted ’T’ and the basement assembly. These waterproofing measures were tested last winter when the sump-pump failed without my knowledge. No leakage with a full head of water.


All framing has been done with the best materials available to me. Tolerances I work to are +/- 1/8”. Where ever possible, engineered capacities have been increased. For example, all shear panels are Structural 1, gapped and hand-nailed with true common galvanized nails. Several drag-links have been installed at horizontal shear surfaces. I probably have pictures of some of these. All tie-downs were placed accurately and the load-path is unbroken from top to bottom. Bolts were tightened late in the construction process and mostly locked with thread-locker or a punch. Staggering of shear panels has been rigidly followed. The roof framing has been traditionally birds-mouthed at the plates, and tolerances are as previously mentioned. Pictures available.


All plumbing within the house is new. Cast iron dwv, copper water-supply to the meter. Supply pipes have been calculated to limit speed of water in pipes to 8’ per second for cold and 4’ per second for hot. There is thermosyphon recirculation for remote usage groups. The water pressure is too high at around 100 psi. There is an adequate section of the supply piping outside the house to install a high-flow pressure reducer, or two regular ones in parallel. An anti-hammer tank is also recommended. There are 4 gas outlets plumbed for 2 water heaters for dhw and 2 for hydronics. Distribution of water supply is manifolded. The hot supply manifold is split allowing for greater control of energy.


All wiring is new up to the pole. There is a service disconnect outside the house and 2 sub-panels inside. Panels are Square D with all copper busses. Whole-house surge protection in panel 1; it won’t protect your computers but it will protect your fridge and sump-pump motors, and your computer surge protection devices. Wiring is 10 ga for power circuits and 12 ga for lighting. Wiring is color-coded stranded cable individually pulled through steel conduit, fully de-rated. No reduction in capacity has been taken as per code for the ground wiring, and the steel conduit provides extra capacity and reduces emfs. Wiring devices are of top quality throughout. Heavy-duty plugs and switches. There is a commercial box of plugs about half-used, I can show you one.

Materials on site.

There are new oil paints, finishing components, deck-paint, spare components, and other top-quality materials on site in good condition. I will co-operate with the eventual buyer to explain these.

Heating and cooling.

The house is designed to require minimal energy input. The hydronics are designed to run at a few degrees below 80f, say 75f. joist spaces are insulated at the rim with 4’’ polyiso reflective which also adds to the rigidity of the floor. Horizontally, joist bays have a reflective barrier under the piping, and further fiberglass insulation below. First floor walls well insulated to r 19, second floor walls to r 26 nominal (system value probably more), third floor walls r 13, roof 5’ polyisocyanature foil-faced with 1” reflective air-space above and below. System approx. r 35. All internal walls insulated according to thickness. No cooling has been needed on the first floor during my tenure, it’s just cool. During winter months, I have noticed that the presence of a few guests usually obviates the need for much heating. Rumford fireplace, probably one of the last permitted in Berkeley. One of the most efficient and cleanest open fires known. This one is EPA certifiable last time I checked. My own design for this standard of Monticello. About 5 tons of masonry housed entirely within the building-envelope. Convection cycle below and behind the installation. Given hard dry full, this fireplace is virtually non-
polluting and incredibly efficient. Go to Buckley-Rumford for more details, but you won’t find my innovations there….


Surprisingly, I cleared about 25 trees and shrubs when I bought Blake. It is still leafy and productive with apples pears, figs, lemons and persimmons, some of the best I have eaten. An herb garden is sadly in disrepair. Needs planting again. A rough barbecue in back works very well and is a haven on summer nights. There is a huge Aloe that I keep for its medicinal value. It must be cut-back.