You've got to love dreamers like John Fischbeck.
Fischbeck co-founded Laguna Beach-based Tresor Properties to develop single-family homes that are unique, high-end and super eco-friendly. It's a lofty vision, but what were its chances during the worst housing downturn in memory?
Fischbeck, 42, recently put his first Platinum LEED project on the market, a 3,600-square-foot oceanfront home in Laguna Beach that listed for about $13 million — reportedly the most expensive property per square foot ever listed in that ZIP code.
And it sold to the first potential buyer who walked through the door and escrow closed in five days.
"It was a groundbreaking project on an environmentally sensitive piece of real estate," Fischbeck said. "We turned it into an art piece that the community, and the new owner can be proud of."
I recently had the opportunity to tour the home, and it was easy to see why Tresor Properties' formula has worked so spectacularly. First, the property with an ultra-modern vibe is visually stunning, beginning with a dramatic entryway with cascading water down the Portuguese limestone steps that gives visitors the feel of walking on water.
The home also features three floors of living space, glass walls for stunning ocean views and an iPad that controls everything in the house from temperature to lighting.
But perhaps the house's best selling point is that it's the first property on the West Coast certified as a Platinum Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) home — meaning it's incredibly eco-friendly.
"Tresor's [oceanfront property] provides an opportunity to show off an outstanding home that has an added element of eco-friendly," said Ken Howe, who teaches an online course at UC Irvine in LEED construction management. "It highlights the drama that can be achieved while using LEED design."
The oceanfront project took advantage of its natural elements in the same way Orange County's first Platinum LEED Certified building — the Environmental Nature Center (ENC) in Newport Beach — was designed by LPA, Inc., an Irvine based firm specializing in sustainable architecture.
"It's crazy what a site can offer us for free," said Dan Heinfeld, president of LPA. "Cool ocean breezes, available sunlight, no need for air conditioning makes the perfect DNA for a LEED building, and it just makes good business sense."
Heinfeld likens sustainable projects to "solving problems, not chasing fashion."
Alternative energy supplies, water use, efficiency of lighting controls and sensors are saving energy costs in the future.
Tresor's next project, next door to its recently sold home, is scheduled to be finished in the summer and will feature a solar energy system, wood from sustainable sources, non-toxic paints and a water reclamation system — all of which Fischbeck hopes will give the West Coast its second Platinum LEED-certified house.
And better yet, at 4,700 square feet, this home — called 992 Oceanfront — will have a bigger and more livable floor plan with dramatic ocean views throughout.
"With 992 coming online this summer I think the public is going to be pretty surprised at what can be achieved, designwise," Fischbeck said. "If people thought 990 Oceanfront was special, 992 is taking it to the next level and then some."
One sneak peek into what it will feature is an exclusive stone used back before the Roman Empire. The quarry was found in search of remains of an ancient town in northern Spain. It's one of the hardest stones in its class.
Tresor is remodeling or building from scratch four properties with three more in the planning stages. The project that many are watching in Laguna Beach is the cottage at 154 Pearl St., said to be the oldest house in town, having been built in 1883.
Unlike Tresor's recently sold modern home, the Pearl Street renovation will lean heavily on tradition. Fischbeck says he hopes the facelift will give the house another 100 or 200 years of life while doing little damage to the environment.
Fischbeck's professional background is as unique as Tresor's homes. He worked as a financial system analyst with a major accounting firm until 2007, when he seized on an opportunity to work with his nephew Jeff and older brother Ken who has been building high-quality homes for decades. Together they launched Tresor, which translates to treasure in French.
For Fischbeck, a married father of four, it was an exciting risk and opportunity. His vision for Tresor was to create niche homes, "building bigger, better properties to outdo each one in the process."
Fischbeck surrounded himself with family: Jeff, a partner, is in charge of sales, his niece Brittney is a designer, his nephew Michael is the project manager, and Ken, a partner, oversees construction.
"I love working with family," Fischbeck said. "We are all really committed, so we often forget we are family."
Fischbeck and nephew Jeff often mixed business with pleasure by taking clients on fishing and surfing trips.
"Doing stuff with our clients that they would normally never do is really our way of having a good time and not feeling guilty about it," he says. "Total synergy!"
As for the future for Tresor, Fischbeck's goal to continue to develop incredible properties, wherever they can be found. He found that building homes in Laguna Beach — known for its exacting development standards and involved citizenry — has been challenging, but improving as Tresor's reputation for quality spread.
"There's plenty of red tape to deal with along with grouchy neighbors," Fischbeck said. "That changes daily, though.
"I did have a dream that we were building some contemporary LEED homes outside of Shanghai the other night. Maybe a premonition?"
What a dreamer.
GREER WYLDER writes Greer's OC for the Huntington Beach Independent each Thursday and the Daily Pilot and Coastline Pilot each Friday. She's the founder and president of greersoc.com, a free daily e-mail service that provides the latest in Orange County fashion, dining, music, events and trends. Her blog can be viewed http://www.greersoc.com and she can be contacted at email@example.com.