Eco-friendly living minutes from downtown

by Leslie Turk

With the financial backing of the LPTFA, a UL architecture prof and his students aim to steer Lafayette to energy efficiency while reinvigorating a downtown neighborhood.

Eco-friendly real estate may seem like an oxymoron in Lafayette; however, "The Event House" at 500 Madison St. is redefining what Lafayette home buyers will demand while simultaneously reinvigorating a neglected neighborhood.

The public is invited to an open house this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This two-bedroom, two-bathroom home complete with a bonus room and open-concept living area that can double as a dance floor for evening soirees is UL Lafayette architecture professor Geoff Gjertson's and university architecture graduate students' brain child. Stephanie Bordelon, who is a member of the team that designed the home, says she and her fellow coworkers aim to steer Lafayette toward green living.

"We wanted to try to get Lafayette moving in the better direction - the more energy-efficient direction," says Bordelon, an architecture graduate student. "It's got to start somewhere. So we figured who better than us."

This "us" also includes contractor Jeremy Arceneaux and PAR Realty agent Peggy Richard Grace. The Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority is backing the project as part of its neighborhood infill initiative, which aims to fill vacant or under-developed property between existing buildings, according to a UL Lafayette press release.

"Their [the LPTFA's] mission is to really go into neighborhoods - like this neighborhood - that have somewhat been neglected and try to help revitalize those neighborhoods, as well as support low-income type housing," says Gjertson. "This [house] really fit their mission well. And it really fit our mission at the university in trying to do community outreach and service learning for the students. So, it's just a perfect marriage. Then, PAR Realty coming on board has just been an amazing synergistic relationship."

This newly formed partnership is responsible for a house that utilizes energy-efficient, below-ground heating and cooling units that create what's known as a plenum system, as well as an advanced wood framing polyurethane foam insulation that calls for fewer studs in walls and allows for more insulation within them. Priced at about $153,000, The Event House boasts 1,350 square feet of living space and a lagniappe 550 square feet in attached, covered porches.

"There are so many details about this house that would just blow your mind," says public relations consultant and special events planner Abi Augello. "I think a lot of people are in the market for green homes but don't know it, especially in Lafayette. They don't understand the impact it can make on them; they don't know the perks of the investment."

These perks include signifcant tax breaks. For example, homeowners can claim a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the costs of certain green living systems like that of the solar system in The Event House. There is no cap on the credit, which is available through 2016. Expected to receive a National Green Building Standard Rating, The Event House should also alleviate monthly energy bills' costs.

Gjertson says the team has plans in 2012 to build another house like this one, which minimized building material waste and the need for several contractors. The Event House's design team included Bordelon, Graham Goodyear, Michael Reid, Josh Franks, Ravelle Reed, Jessica Degate, Brant Patout, Philippe Callais, Adam Pettus, Liv Urbus and Kyle Comeaux.