On Tuesday, June 30th, NCPTT Executive Director Kirk Cordell, Chief of Architecture and Engineering Andy Ferrell, and summer interns Paul Cady, Miriam Tworek-Hofstetter, and I traveled to Lafayette for a day of sustainable architecture with a community preservation focus. Architect Eddie Cazayoux – of EnvironMental Design – first met us at the St. Landry Parish Visitor’s Center in Opelousas. As part of a collaboration with with Ashe Broussard Weinzettle Architects and Jeffrey Carbo Landscape Architects, Eddie was able to highlight his design process and goals.
In a way, the visitor’s center acts as a microcosm of the parish at large, featuring materials and plant life from throughout the region. The garden space is divided into two sections, showcasing different landscapes (meadows and bogs) of the parish. Gabion wall construction is used throughout the project as a thermal mass, irrigation measure, material reuse, and for its aesthetics.
“I enjoyed that the first site considered the landscape as part of the sustainable site,” Paul Cady notes.
Architectural elements such as reclaimed wood, photovoltaic panels, a wind turbine, and a cistern were also incorporated.
“Whether or not the project went for LEED or not, I was going to design the most sustainable building I knew how,” Eddie explains.
Eddie’s home was our next stop, and it was fascinating to see elements of his book – “A Manual for the Environmental & Climatic Responsive Restoration & Renovation of Older Houses in Louisiana” – in action, as he walked us through the passive ventilation and cooling elements that he has implemented. His property gradates to a pond, pulling the cooler temperatures of the ground up to the floor of his house, and the cupola is designed to pull hot air out of living spaces. Wandering the property, Eddie showed us his workshop where he collects reclaimed materials for future projects, and historical elements that he hopes to interpret in his design, such as the Pueblo Indian kiva.
“I really liked his perspective on architecture: profound emphasis on the house as part of the site, using the landscape and architectural features to orient and cool or the building instead of only relying on mechanical systems,” Miriam Tworek Hofstetter says. “I liked that he incorporated historic construction and materials in a way that made sense and served a purpose similar to its historic purpose instead of just imitating an historic style.”
Next, we visited the Maison de Madeleine bed and breakfast, an 1840s structure that was moved to its current location in the late 1900s. Eddie worked to convert the project into a bed and breakfast by focusing on the ventilation process. As the business has grown, so too has the house. A modern addition, of bousillage construction, is connected to the historic property by a bridge.
Visiting the nearby Cypress Island Nature Conservancy gave us time to walk the boardwalk and discuss material selection with Eddie. He pointed out the blue color of the metal roof, as a way to fool insects into believing that it is the sky, meaning there isn’t a surface to create webs on.
After lunch, we traveled to the University of Louisiana Lafayette to meet architect and architecture professor Geoff Gjertson and tour BeauSoleil, a design-build project developed by architecture students that won the Market Viability and People’s Choice awards at the 2009 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition. Geoff walked us through the project and gave us insight into the design process, like how, in future iterations, the project could have more regionally specific porch coverings, but couldn’t for the competition due to square footage limitations. He also hypothesized that the project owed its awards largely to the kitchen’s size and accommodations. Many other entries, he noted, had kitchen units similar to a dorm or that only occupied a wall and created no spaces.
The project also takes flexible design into consideration, as the home’s entire central unit can be converted to five different layouts, ranging from entirely interior space to entirely exterior space. This “dog-trot” is formed by a series of doors that rotate along a track to create the desired effect, whether it’s enclosing the kitchen to keep heat from the bedroom, or having a breezeway space between the front and back decks.
Geoff then took us to the Event House (take a virtual tour here), explaining that the university also participates in an infill housing project to increase the housing stock with sustainable, aesthetically pleasing methods. Funded by the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority, students work on design development and then volunteer their services throughout construction to keep costs down. Proceeds from the sale of the Event House were used to finance additional infill projects within the neighborhood.
That next project was the Next House (watch a news report of its open house here). A bright yellow, the house commanded attention with its modern design, yet blended within the historical context of the neighborhood. The porch has an especially interesting detail, in which a pole functions as a beam through the canopy structure.
Located directly across the street is the Cour House, the last of the infill projects that Geoff showed us. A courtyard (“cour” in French) is the central design element of the project, taking the flexible space of BeauSoleil to another project. The project is under construction, and when we visited the “afternoon crew” was busy at work framing operable ventilation windows for the roof that would bring natural light into the kitchen. In discussing the project with one of the lead designers, the infill designs are chosen democratically. The studio develops a series of projects and ultimately chooses one project to move forward with, the Cour House’s competition was a 1.5-story house, and the class decided that the courtyard and savings in constructing a 1-story design would keep costs down.
Finally, our last stop was to a Habitat for Humanity project designed by Geoff’s students. A church worker’s house had burned down, and the community bound together to build her a new house help from the non-profit and UL Lafayette students. Portions of the original foundation are still visible, creating a multi-level lawn area. Geoff was excited to share the personal touches that his students were able to incorporate, like adding a prayer room that would be regularly filled with natural light, out of leftover materials from the main construction project. Ending the day with such a personal project truly completed the day.
Overall, the trip was a great experience to explore preservation at both the level of construction with reclaimed material and passive design, but also neighborhood conservation with the infill housing projects and economic development. As our internships at NCPTT come to an end, it is important to walk away exposed to multiple perspectives of preservation, and I am grateful for the opportunity.