Straw bales and free air

Energy-efficient green building and cyclist-friendly fix-it station

Robin Trenda (right) and employee Caleb Casey building straw-bale home.

Robin Trenda (right) and employee Caleb Casey building straw-bale home.

Green pioneer
Local building contractor Robin Trenda (pictured) has been building green for years—since 1984, to be exact. The burgeoning green-building movement finally caught up to him about four years ago. That’s when he decided to change his business name from Robin Trenda General Contracting to Chico Green Builders.

“Once the word ‘green building’ finally caught on,” he explained, “I thought, ‘Now there’s a name recognition that makes sense to people, and they can wrap their heads around it.’

“There aren’t too many of us [green builders] in the area, which is surprising,” he said, adding, “I’m very busy. I’ve had no slowdown at all during this construction crash. I really believe it’s because I established myself as a green builder a while ago, and [green building] is the most active part of the industry.”

One of Trenda’s green specialties is structural insulated panel—or SIP—homes, with walls constructed of thick, foam-core “super-insulation” sandwiched between sheets of OSB (oriented strand board) plywood.

Recently, he began work on a cutting-edge straw-bale home on Cana Highway, which features an innovative, alternating open-loop/closed-loop, heating/cooling system designed by Davis Energy Group, and energy-saving, radiant-heated polished-concrete floors made with 50 percent fly ash, a byproduct of the coal-energy industry.

“Both have very, very little mass, but are extremely well-insulated,” he offered of SIP and straw-bale homes. Both types of home have super-energy-efficient walls that “keep in the energy created inside the building.”

Trenda said he takes classes, does “constant reading,” goes to conferences and talks to other builders about new green-building ideas.

“I love learning,” he said. “For me as a green builder, the most important thing is to continue learning, because it’s something that we will continually move toward—a greener and greener building.”

Contact Chico Green Builders at 342-8267 or by writing to <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">{ document.write(String.fromCharCode(60,97,32,104,114,101,102,61,34,109,97,105,108,116,111,58,99,104,105,99,111,103,114,101,101,110,98,117,105,108,100,101,114,115,64,115,98,99,103,108,111,98,97,108,46,110,101,116,34,62,99,104,105,99,111,103,114,101,101,110,98,117,105,108,100,101,114,115,64,115,98,99,103,108,111,98,97,108,46,110,101,116,60,47,97,62)) } </script>.

Jonas Herzog and son Kai at their East 10th Street bike station.

Cyclists welcome!
Thought you might like to know that Nani Teves, watershed coordinator for the Big Chico Creek Watershed Alliance, and her husband, Jonas Herzog, host a sweet little “bike station” (pictured) in front of their home at 379 E. 10th St. for cyclists riding through their neighborhood who need to fix a flat tire or just add a little air. Everything is free—the air from the rechargeable pump and even the patches, glue and use of tools. Instructions on how to fix a flat are on the door to the little cabinet holding the supplies, and there’s a bench to rest on as well.

“My mom in Palo Alto brought up the bench one day,” said Teves, “and all of a sudden, I got this idea to make a bike station.”

“She’s always doing projects that are geared toward better community,” Herzog offered.

“We get the young kids who use the dirt jumps [near our house], [and] couples on dates,” added Herzog, of the 3-year-old bike station.

“It gets used quite a bit,” Teves said. “The first couple of months, people were like, ‘Really? Free?’”

Teves’ idea is catching on: A woman from Montana who had heard about the bike station (at e-mailed her recently, saying that “for Mother’s Day, she asked her husband to build her a bike station on [their] rural road in Montana that bikers use a lot.”