This is a prototypical home specially designed with a 200% structural engineering safety factor to easily withstand 150+ mph winds and designed to be extremely durable, low/no maintenance, effectively flood-proofed, super-structured, armored, super-insulted, and extremely energy-efficient. Every effort was made to make the house “fit” the site; it utilizes a Southern coastal vernacular archetype; it is oriented on the site to take advantage of year-round sun sets and moon rises and to minimize solar heat gain; and careful attention has been given to the breathtaking views. It is designed to harmoniously take advantage of both the latest in currently available technology and a site blessed with unparalleled natural beauty. We have attempted to provide an example of enduring environmentally-sensitive design without any compromise of convenience, aesthetics, or quality of life.
A few of the building technology components are:
Two SkyStream 3.7 Wind-Turbine Generator Units
These are the first two grid-tied, wind-turbine, electrical cogeneration units in the State of Louisiana or Mississippi and brought online October 20, 2008. The graceful, 50-foot tall, 12-foot blade diameter units are designed to withstand 140 mph winds and to collectively generate 800-900 kwh per month depending on average prevailing winds speeds. For the most part, this house was actually built using free onsite-generated wind energy.
A Water Furnace “Envision” Earth-Source Heat Pump
This is a 3-ton, 3-zone, variable speed, EER 30+-rated, HVAC/dehumidification system with three 250-foot-deep grout-filled earth wells designed to dissipate heat during cooling cycles and to take up heat during heating cycles using an abbreviated super-efficient Freon cycle in tandem with a circulating water heat-exchanger system. The system takes advantage of static 70° year-round underground temperatures and has no exterior air conditioning condenser unit. Under full cooling load the system’s compressor consumes less than 8 amps of electricity and is virtually silent.
A Peet Brothers Ultimeter 2100 Weather Station
This is a super-accurate, professional-grade, digital electronic, cabled-sensor weather station capable of monitoring and logging wind speed, wind direction, outdoor and indoor temperature, relative humidity, heat index, chill factor, precipitation, barometric pressure, and dew point. The unit is designed to provide continuous streaming serial data output to an enslaved, web-connected, computer central-processing-unit which logs the info and, in turn, makes this micro-localized weather data available to the public domain for remote viewing, information, research, and analysis. The house is also equipped with two, color, closed-circuit, Web-connected, armored cameras that allow the owner to remotely monitor weather and water conditions.
A Double-Tier Proprietary “Surf-breaker” Bulkhead
This organically shaped, steel-reinforced, piling-tied and supported, double concave strike face, concrete bulkhead is designed to deflect the force of storm-driven surf back upon itself. The bulkhead has been designed to provide a 10 foot wide “boardwalk” with two continuous 18-inch tall winding benches above and below facing Lake Pontchartrain and the sunset. In addition, the leading edge of the building’s foundation has been reinforced with half-inch thick PVC sheet piling buried 6 feet deep to prevent storm surf from undermining the structural pile-supported slab.
A Koehler 17kW RES Multi-Fuel Electrical Backup Generator
This extremely compact, quiet, and powerful natural gas powered generator is easily capable of providing sufficient electrical power to operate the entire house. The system automatically starts itself to bring up full power within 8 to 14 seconds of any electrical service interruption. Electronics and computers are protected with uninterruptible power supply battery units. The generator itself has been anchored with a vibration-isolation pad on a protected portion of the roof accessed by an aluminum attic-access hatch proved with its own separate insulation panel. The unit can also be converted to operate on propane; and sufficient space and structural capacity have been allowed for on the platform in that eventuality.
Utility Service Protection
The electrical service cogeneration meter and automatic transfer switch are mounted 12 feet above the slab and the high-pressure natural gas utility meter is equipped with an air sensor that can be provided with a snorkel. Electrical utility power supply, natural gas utility supply, sewer line, and TV/phone/data cable are all buried at least 18 inches below original grade before rising up either through or over the edge of the slab. All of this, along with the circulating water lines for the earth-source heat-pump, are solidly fastened to, and protected by, the structural piers that support and anchor the house. The house has its own water well which was drilled beneath the concrete foundation slab prior to its having been formed and poured.
Exterior Skin “Hardening”
Exterior walls of 2 x 6 renewably-harvested Southern Yellow Pine wood-frame have been sprayed down with an inert boric acid solution to make them fire and wood destroying insect resistant. They are reinforced with 5½ inches of rigid closed-cell foam insulation, 5/8-inch solidly-blocked staggered-seam oriented strand board, quarter-inch thick fiber-reinforced cement “Hardipanel” board, and ¾-inch thick fiber-reinforced cement “Hardiplank” 1 x 2 battens at 16 inches on center. Finally the exterior is painted with an elastomeric, moisture incursion barrier paint.
To simplify hurricane preparedness, picture window have heavy gauge, roll-down, aluminum shutters; double hung windows have heavy gauge, aluminum, board-and-batten style shutters; and the octagonal feature windows are of armored laminated glass. All windows are provided with high energy efficiency double insulated, Argon gas filled, low-emissivity glazing. Even the screened porch ceiling fans are provided with hold-down chains.
Most of the ground-floor walls are designed to sacrificially “break-away,” if necessary, at the last possible moment before high velocity floodwaters compromise the structural integrity of the building. Two Structurally reinforced shafts surround the water well line and the swimming pool supply and return lines. Water well and swimming pool equipment are both mounted on structurally underslung platforms 12 feet above the slab surface. The three-story elevator is programmed to always automatically return to the second-floor to form a “plug” at the bottom of the elevator shaft in case the ground floor portion of the shaft is swept away.
On the other hand, considerable effort was made to minimize or completely eliminate the wind and water resistance of critical building elements. Risers were eliminated from the ground-floor powder coated metal stairs to prevent them from being swept away in floodwaters and the stainless steel cable stair handrails and raised deck guard rails present no wind resistance, are practically invisible, and therefore do not block the views.
The heavy gauge, highly reflective, “Galvalume” roof has been fastened with four times the manufacturer recommended fasteners and overhangs the exterior walls by 4 feet to provide natural shading, to protect from flying debris, and to protect the building’s exterior finishes. This particular detail is in keeping with long-standing passive cooling building traditions in the Gulf South but required, given this project’s programmatic demands, particular attention to structural reinforcing. All portions of the structure, from the roof overhangs on down, have been carefully over-engineered to withstand all but the very worst imaginable storm conditions and to structurally tie all building components right down into the pilings while protecting the conditioned core.
Other Energy Efficiency Measures
Approximately 50% of the lighting fixtures throughout the project use compact fluorescent bulbs or LEDs. The house utilizes a high-efficiency natural gas powered tankless water heater. All appliances an most of the electronics are “Energy Star” rated. Even the clothes dryer is installed in a hermetically-sealed closet with an air baffle that uses outside air rather than interior conditioned air to dry clothing.
Finally, given the high degree of the thermal insulation incorporated throughout the house, the wood-burning fireplace (with its own makeup combustion exterior air supply), and assisted by air recirculating capacity of the air-conditioning system and by the old-fashioned ceiling fans, should be more than equal to the task of warming the entire house in the winter.