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California Home Showcases Anti-Bacterial Steel Construction Techniques - 2003-11-24

A Los Angeles home is showcasing the latest construction techniques and building materials, such as germ-resistant fixtures. The dream home of Ed and Madeleine Landry is environmentally friendly, resistant to fires and earthquakes, and nearly maintenance free.

It is surprisingly bright and cozy, and yet it is a mini-fortress. This steel and concrete structure is anchored on a hillside over Simi Valley, a northern suburb of Los Angeles that was recently scorched by wildfires. Local fire officials used the house as a command center, because it offers a view of the whole valley.

This picturesque area was a stagecoach route in the 19th century, and was later the setting for Western films featuring cowboy star Roy Rogers.

Ed Landry, a prominent Los Angeles lawyer, says he wanted to buy the land when he first got a glimpse of it, and his wife fell in love with the property, too. "She saw the trees and the rocks, and suddenly, my dream location became her dream location. So, we found this property and took our time enjoying it," he says. "We used it almost as a weekend park, a recreation place for several years."

The Landry home and guest house now straddle the side of a 600-meter mountain, which is covered with sandstone boulders, native foliage and more than 2,000 oak trees.

Madeleine Landry says the couple has long had an interest in California's native plants. "So, when we saw this property, we appreciated that this was California 200 years ago, untouched," she says. "No one had ever lived here, and [we thought] wouldn't it be wonderful to own something like this?"

Much of the first floor of the home features floor-to-ceiling windows made of impact-resistant glass, which offer magnificent vistas of the valley on one side and the rocks and shrubs on the other.

Despite its rustic setting, the home is ultramodern, built with the most advanced construction techniques and materials. It covers more than 1,000 square meters and contains 80,000 kilograms of steel. Its amenities include a library, weightlifting room and 6,000 bottle wine cellar.

The door handles, bathroom and kitchen fixtures are all germ-resistant, and were provided by the Ohio-based company AK Steel. Company spokesman Alan McCoy says they are coated with a substance called Agion, which eliminates most disease-carrying microbes. "Essentially, there's a silver ion that in the presence of moisture is released to the surface of, in this case, steel, and that inhibits the growth of bacteria and microbes," he says.

The germ-resistant fixtures are just one of the house's features. Madeleine Landry says she also likes its durability. She and her husband lived earlier in the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge, where they coped with a major earthquake in 1994, and other problems including termites. "We lived in a very traditional house, one that required a lot of maintenance, painting every two or three years. It had a wood roof, which we replaced eventually. Actually, we replaced our roof twice. So, both of us were on board with (liked) the idea that we wanted to build something that we didn't have to do that to again," she says.

Their new roof is made of stainless steel and should last for many decades. Ed Landry says little wood was used in the construction. "Nothing on the exterior can burn, rot, warp or be eaten by bugs, or requires any paint. The only wood in the structure are the baseboards and interior doors and cabinets," he says.

For AK Steel, the Landry home is a showcase for its anti-microbial product, which Alan McCoy says has application elsewhere. "One of the big opportunities, we believe, is in the use in what we call ductwork in HVAC, or heating, ventilating and air conditioning components, where mold and mildew and fungus can be an issue," he says.

He says air ducts are sometimes responsible for the spread of disease, and that the anti-microbial coating reduces that.

Another application is in kitchen and bathroom fixtures, where the anti-bacterial steel may offer an added layer of protection against disease-causing germs.

The Landrys finished building their home just a few months ago, following years of planning and design, permit applications and construction. Madeleine Landry says it has been worth the time and effort. "Very worth it. It's taken almost three years to build the house. We interviewed architects for a year, and it took a year-and-a-half for the architects to design the house. And then the process, the permits and all of the codes," she says. "But it's really almost better than we thought it would be. It's just beyond our dreams."

Madeleine and Ed Landry say commercial homebuilders could not afford to incorporate all of the home's features in their housing developments, but that some of its attributes, like its germ-resistant fixtures and a design built around the local topography, may one day be included in less expensive housing.