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Grunow moves toward green future

The 64-year-old, single-family home at 515 Bonair St. in La Jolla has had only one owner during its lifetime.

Now, thanks to Thomas Grunow Construction, La Jolla general contractors, the residence is being expanded and updated, brought into a new age while preserving its historic integrity. Best of all, it’s being done in an environmentally conscious way.

Grunow Construction counts itself among the growing number of “green builders.” Such tradesmen are creating and restoring homes just as they’ve always done. But new-era builders like the Grunows are doing it in a way that sustains, rather than harms, the natural environment.

Dan Grunow, who’s picking up the building trade from his father, Thomas, said the family business is taking its love for historical preservation and its concern for preserving the environment and combining the two, gradually morphing Thomas Grunow Construction into a “green” business.

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“Our company is just getting into making these (green ) changes so that we’re heading in the direction we want to go,” said Dan Grunow. “There are a couple different sides in green building. One is using sustainable, harvestable materials, like bamboo, which grows so much faster than other (building) materials.”

Another green change being employed by the Grunows is using non-toxic materials in drywall, paint and carpeting, thus preventing off-gassing emissions. “That’s a big concern to a lot of people with all the cancer-causing and unhealthy things in the environment,” said Dan Grunow.

Dan Grunow noted his company is also getting heavily involved with installing photovoltaic energy-producing systems in the homes they’re building. “Now that SDG&E is allowing people to supply their own power and sell that power back to the grid,” he said, “it’s become an investment that pays off for the customer. That’s something we’ve been trying to offer our customers when we can.”

The Grunows have a half dozen projects they’re working on, in various stages of development, at any given time. One current project is restoration and expansion work they’re performing on a historic home at 515 Bonair St. in La Jolla. That 64-year-old property, being restored between now and the end of the year at a cost of about $300,000, has been owned solely by the Lloyd family. Noel Lloyd said she’s glad the home she grew up in is being expanded and restored with both its historicity - and the environment - in mind.

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be one of those two-story ‘cookie-cutter’ structures that seem to be cropping up all over the place.”

Lloyd praised the Grunows for the work they do in preserving the architectural integrity of older dwellings in town. “I am happy to see the Grunows restoring this and other homes and preserving them in the style in which they were conceived,” Lloyd said. “They will need updating to fit peoples’ lifestyles. I am so pleased that they (Grunows) are going green with this venture (515 Bonair), a house that not only represents ‘old” La Jolla, but will be in sync with nature and environmentally friendly - the best of both time periods.”

Contracting family patriarch Thomas Grunow noted homes where he hails from in Connecticut have long histories and that the tradition of restoring them in order to preserve them for posterity is something he transplanted with him when he moved to the Jewel years ago. From a long tradition of builders (three of Grunow’s four brothers in Connecticut were contractors) one of the first things Grunow did when he moved to La Jolla was to purchase and restore a home designed and built by master architect Edgar V. Ullrich in 1926. He’s been building, remodeling and renovating homes, many historic, in La Jolla ever since.

Thomas Grunow, who also did work on Heritage Place, a historic corner on La Jolla Boulevard that includes the yellow Dr. Corey cottages, said he likes the idea of being true to the past in building while keeping an eye to the future, doing things progressive like going “green.”

“When you’ve been building for 30 years you end up doing things the same year after year,” he pointed out. “With the younger generation, we’ve become a lot more aware of the need to be more environmentally sensitive. It’s important to have the opportunity to make some of these (green) changes.”

Thomas Grunow noted his contracting firm recycles materials rather than “taking everything to the dump.”

“We take it to a company called Edco,” Thomas Grunow said, “and they sort everything and recycle it.”

What’s the next big trend going to be in the building industry?

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Thomas Grunow had a quick answer. “The future of the industry is very complex home automation systems, where you walk in and push a button in one keypad and the thermostat and lights go on, the shades come down and the stereo goes on,” he said. “In a few years, every appliance in a home is going to have the ability to send a signal to a company letting it know when it needs to be repaired.”

Asked what the most satisfying part of his job was, Thomas Grunow replied: “Having happy owners. You do what it takes to please your customer.”

One of those “happy” Grunow customers is Lloyd. She said: “The Grunows appreciate the era (homes) came from and feel compelled to honor that while breathing new life into them, like this little white house that will be sustained for many years to come.”

“My father and mother purchased this property around 1948, and I grew up in the house and very much enjoyed the Village feel,” said Lloyd. “When my mother found this home she considered it to be the fulfillment of the American dream ... a cute little house with its yellow shutters, white picket fence, big backyard. This house reflected the theme back then of cozy places, warm feelings, camaraderie with neighbors.”

Lloyd noted her mother planted a little twig in the front yard of their 515 Bonair St. house, a potacarpus specimen that now towers over it. “Back then houses were constructed on a small scale,” she noted, “but today people need more room. There will be expansion of this house but on the ground level. It will not be one of those two-story ‘cookie-cutter’ structures that seem to be cropping up all over the place.”

Lloyd praised the Grunows for the work they do in preserving the architectural integrity of older dwellings in town. “I am happy to see the Grunows restoring this and other homes and preserving them in the style in which they were conceived,” Lloyd said. “They will need updating to fit peoples’ lifestyles. I am so pleased that they (Grunows) are going green with this venture (515 Bonair), a house that not only represents ‘old” La Jolla, but will be in sync with nature and environmentally friendly - the best of both time periods.”

Contracting family patriarch Thomas Grunow noted homes where he hails from in Connecticut have long histories and that the tradition of restoring them in order to preserve them for posterity is something he transplanted with him when he moved to the Jewel years ago. From a long tradition of builders (three of Grunow’s four brothers in Connecticut were contractors) one of the first things Grunow did when he moved to La Jolla was to purchase and restore a home designed and built by master architect Edgar V. Ullrich in 1926. He’s been building, remodeling and renovating homes, many historic, in La Jolla ever since.

Thomas Grunow, who also did work on Heritage Place, a historic corner on La Jolla Boulevard that includes the yellow Dr. Corey cottages, said he likes the idea of being true to the past in building while keeping an eye to the future, doing things progressive like going “green.”

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“When you’ve been building for 30 years you end up doing things the same year after year,” he pointed out. “With the younger generation, we’ve become a lot more aware of the need to be more environmentally sensitive. It’s important to have the opportunity to make some of these (green) changes.”

Thomas Grunow noted his contracting firm recycles materials rather than “taking everything to the dump.”

“We take it to a company called Edco,” Thomas Grunow said, “and they sort everything and recycle it.”

What’s the next big trend going to be in the building industry?

Thomas Grunow had a quick answer. “The future of the industry is very complex home automation systems, where you walk in and push a button in one keypad and the thermostat and lights go on, the shades come down and the stereo goes on,” he said. “In a few years, every appliance in a home is going to have the ability to send a signal to a company letting it know when it needs to be repaired.”

Asked what the most satisfying part of his job was, Thomas Grunow replied: “Having happy owners. You do what it takes to please your customer.”

One of those “happy” Grunow customers is Lloyd. She said: “The Grunows appreciate the era (homes) came from and feel compelled to honor that while breathing new life into them, like this little white house that will be sustained for many years to come.”