The 2014 Greenbuild LivingHome will have two lives. First, it will serve as a showcase for practical high-performance construction techniques on the expo floor at the Greenbuild conference, Oct. 22–24 in New Orleans. Conference attendees can tour the home in person to see the innovative design techniques and products the builder used to achieve net-zero electricity and LEED v4 Platinum standards.
After the conference, however, the LivingHome will serve its ultimate intended purpose: as home to a low-income family in the Lower Ninth Ward, the New Orleans neighborhood infamously devastated by flooding after Hurricane Katrina. So it’s fitting that the home’s builder, Santa Monica, California–based LivingHomes, emphasized durable and resilient features in the home just as much as energy efficiency and healthy materials.
“Frankly, durability is a major, but often undiscussed, sustainability requirement,” says Steve Glenn, CEO of LivingHomes. “The less durable you’re building, the more you have to replace materials, the more you have the potential for energy and water leakage. If your goal is to create a building that is highly sustainable, [durability] is a major requirement.”
Durability was essential for Make It Right, the non-profit organization that has partnered with LivingHomes to install and sell the home in New Orleans. “It’s very important to them that their homes are made right so that they’ve got minimal maintenance and warranty and upkeep issues,” Glenn says. To ensure the LivingHome can withstand an extreme storm, it includes built-in hurricane screens to cover the windows, a 5-foot-high raised foundation capable of withstanding future floods, and a Kohler standby generator that runs on propane or natural gas and kicks in to supply power in the event of an outage.
LivingHomes’ factory-engineered, modular building approach also sets the builder’s houses apart from traditional, site-built dwellings. Before they’re transported to Greenbuild, the home’s three modules will be built in a factory in Austin, Texas, where they’re engineered to stand up to earthquake-level vibrations and heavy winds. “We’re using prefabrication to make our homes more efficiently, higher quality, faster, lower cost, and with lower construction waste than if you were going to do it via site-built means,” says Glenn, who set aside early aspirations of becoming an architect to pursue careers in the tech industry before founding LivingHomes eight years ago.
Both LivingHomes and Make It Right hold all of their homes to high standards for health, sustainability, and modern design, so the LivingHome builds on its resilient features with realistic strategies for minimizing its ecological footprint. After it is placed in the Lower Ninth Ward, it may become the first home certified to LEED Platinum standards under LEED for Homes v4, the latest and most rigorous version of the green building program.
“If your goal is to create a building that is highly sustainable, [durability] is a major requirement.”
“I think you’ll see a lot of real-world strategies, materials, and technologies that can be used to create homes that offer great spaces that people really like and want to live in, that are built very efficiently, and that have an extremely, extremely comprehensive environmental program,” Glenn says.
As the home’s primary sponsor, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) will highlight opportunities throughout the home for builders to use propane to reduce their homes’ energy costs and environmental footprints. For instance, the LivingHome will feature a propane tankless water heater from Rinnai and gas appliances from Electrolux/Frigidaire. Propane can also help make homes more resilient by fueling features such as standby generators or gas grills that keep a home functioning even in the event of a power outage. “For customers who are off-grid or for whom that’s a key requirement, that’s a serious advantage of propane,” Glenn says.
Take a video tour of the Propane Energy Pod features present in the 2014 Greenbuild LivingHome.
With a large, central, open living space and multiple generous wraparound porches, the home also supports a traditional New Orleans indoor/outdoor lifestyle. PERC’s booth (#1154) will help emphasize that functionality by serving as the LivingHome’s unofficial backyard. Visitors to the LivingHome can swing by the booth to sip lemonade, shoot the breeze, and enter to win a propane grill. Next door, you can check out information seminars in the PERC Education Lab.
If you can’t make it to Greenbuild in person, be sure to check out all of the LivingHome’s innovative features in the LivingHome virtual tour.