LaHouse Paves the Way for Sustainable Housing

Linda Benedict  |  1/5/2006 11:59:08 PM

One building system features foam panels that can be locked together and filled with concrete to create strong walls with built-in insulation value.

The insulating concrete forms (ICF) are held together with reinforcing steel bars, which add strength to the walls when the concrete is poured.

A rebar-reinforced concrete block stem wall is filled with compacted soil and covered with a concrete slab cap to comprise one of the elevated foundation models.

A traditional pier and beam foundation features piers built over footings in the ground with a wood subfloor supported by beams.

When it’s finished, LaHouse will feature several options for building systems as well as roofs, walls, floors and foundations.

Stack framing using 2x6 wall studs placed 24 inches apart align with the rafters and floor joists to improve the process of tying the structure with hurricane straps, increase stability and increase energy efficiency. (Photos by Mark Claesgens)

LaHouse is situated on a 7-acre site to demonstrate sustainable landscaping as well as building design.

A foundation wall of concrete blocks on footings creates a crawl space when it’s covered with a wood floor. The wall includes “flood vents” to allow water to flow in and out in the event of a flood.

Claudette Hanks Reichel and Frances C. Lawrence

Sustainability (meeting current needs without jeopardizing future generations) is an emerging necessity. Natural disasters such as hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 cause billions of dollars in damages to homes and lost productivity. The average repair cost for homes infested by Formosan subterranean termites is $11,000. Mold litigation and claims have prompted their exclusion from homeowners’ insurance, and in South Louisiana, homeowners’ insurance is either unavailable or costly. Rising energy, water and waste management costs create an economic burden for families and local governments. The high rate of asthma and the aging population increase family and public health costs. The list of state and national challenges doesn’t stop there.

Sustainable housing and development must integrate and balance resource efficiency, durability and health with practicality and convenience. Typical new housing either ignores these criteria or addresses them in a piecemeal manner. The multiple barriers include increased production costs, confusion, multiple options, complexity of building systems, and limited local market awareness and demand. Yet, it is projected that 40 percent of the U.S. housing stock in 2030 is yet to be built.

To address these issues, the LSU AgCenter is spearheading an interdisciplinary public-private partnership initiative to create the Louisiana House Home and Landscape Resource Center (LaHouse). Now under construction on the Louisiana State University campus, it will include a permanent demonstration house with changing exhibits, seven acres of environmental landscape exhibits and a multi-media teaching center. LaHouse will be operated by the LSU AgCenter as a southern region educational and applied research center and outreach program to stimulate both consumer demand and industry change for sustainable homes and development.

Future Living

The LaHouse vision is to shape the future by demonstrating ways to combine environmental stewardship with economic benefits and enhanced quality of life – showing how it’s possible to have more comfort, durability, value, convenience and better health with less property damage, energy, water, pollution and waste. The LaHouse marketing slogan – shaping the future for Louisiana living – reflects the growing consumer desire to have a sense of control and to make a difference. LaHouse capitalizes on that sentiment to motivate and equip citizens with the research-based knowledge they need to distinguish and demand higher-performance homes.

LaHouse features a range of alternative solutions along the cost-benefit and technology continuum, from low-cost to high-end.
  • Four wind-, water- and termite-resistant, energy-efficient building systems (borate-treated 2x4 wood frame with engineered wood products, 2x6 advanced framing, structural insulated panels and insulating concrete forms) – all with hurricane connectors, rain screen drainage planes and other details that demonstrate EnergyStar and Fortified for Safer Living guidelines (130 mph wind resistance) as well as moisture control and mold prevention.
  • Nine types of energy-efficient windows and a variety of impact-resistant protections.
  • Two long-life, hail- and hurricane-resistant, cool roofing systems with upgraded underlayments.
  • Three heating, cooling, ventilation and dehumidification systems for high comfort, efficiency and indoor air quality.
  • A low-cost, severe-weather safe room suitable for Louisiana risk levels.
  • Three elevated foundation systems for flood zones, dryfloodproofing, and wet-floodproofing demonstrations.
  • High-performance, low-water fixtures and rainwater harvesting systems.
  • A universal design and family-friendly features.
  • Advanced, energy-efficient appliances, lighting, controls and structured wiring.
  • Low-maintenance, long-life, environmentally friendly and locally produced products.
Anticipated Effects

LaHouse will stimulate change in the marketplace and housing stock to produce several benefits:
  • Homeowners will have more comfortable and durable homes with lower utility bills and higher resale value.
  • Children will grow up in healthy, safe homes free of mold and asthma triggers.
  • The elderly will live in homes that accommodate their changing needs and facilitate independent living.
  • Future generations will enjoy the environmental quality and natural resources we have preserved and protected.
  • Communities will save public dollars with lower requirements for waste disposal, water treatment, flood control and disaster recovery.
  • Insurance companies will have lower losses, helping to stem premium increases and policy writing restrictions.
  • Mortgage lenders will have better collateral and fewer delinquencies on loans secured by homes that preserve their value and cost less to operate and maintain.
  • Home builders, designers and suppliers will profit from increasing demand for their sustainable products by a growing market segment.
  • Energy companies will reduce peak demand loads and generation emissions.
  • Housing and horticulture professionals will have new continuing education opportunities.
  • Teachers will have a unique educational resource in environmental science, building science, horticulture and technology.
  • Tourism and economic development initiatives will gain from the recognition, visitation and economic activity generated by LaHouse.

See additional photos.

Claudette Hanks Reichel, Professor, and Frances C. Lawrence, Alumni Professor, School of Human Ecology, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, La.

(This article appeared in the fall 2005 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

 

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