The Beausoleil Home is being decked out for a final bon voyage on Sept. 17 before it leaves for the Solar Decathlon in Washington D.C.
Photo by Isabel LaSala
There are all sorts of misconceptions about solar panels. The current buzz is that they don’t really generate a lot of power, enough maybe to heat water or spin some ceiling fans. But take a turn around UL’s entry into the 2009 Solar Decathlon, the Beausoleil Home. Running on the sun is central air, an electric stove, a designer, two-drawer dishwasher, under-counter fridge and freezer, washer and dryer, a sybaritic shower, lights, ceiling fans, and a TV and computer that will ultimately download from LUS’s fiber-to-the-home.
It’s a pretty amazing engineering feat accomplished by UL’s engineering students and faculty. That the house is also beautiful and comfortable can be credited to the vision of the university’s architectural grad students and faculty. That the right brain and left brain members of the team didn’t kill each other over the course of the two-year project is due to Scott Chappuis.
A second-year UL architecture grad student and member of the eight-person Beausoleil team, Chappuis has acted as liaison between the two departments and the professional world. A typical example of his bridging the function-versus-form argument: the compressor for the air conditioner. The consulting engineers wanted it on the ground outside the building so it wouldn’t overheat. The students wanted it hidden inside the structure for beauty’s sake. Chappuis brokered a compromise. “We put it up under the roof but surrounded it with louvers so it can draw in outside air,” he says, in the quiet, focused way he comes up with solutions. “It can breathe, but you really don’t notice it.” Hidden solutions are the mantra for the Beausoleil House.
The Solar Decathlon, a contest dreamed up by the U.S. Department of Energy, is designed to call attention to the need to develop alternate sources of energy, and to engage innovation and experimentation through an international competition of top architectural and engineering schools. Ultimately, thousands of graduating architecture students worldwide will emerge into the workforce with expertise in sustainable design. It was an honor to be chosen in the first place, says UL architecture professor and Beausoleil faculty advisor Geoff Gjertson. Actually making the 20-team cut was like winning the contest. Each team selected to compete received $100,000 from the DOE for the project. The winner in October will take home a trophy and bragging rights, but Gjertson says his students have already gained a superb, hands-on education.
UL will be in some rarefied company when the house arrives on the Mall in Washington, D.C., Oct. 8 to compete. Teams from Cornell, Rice, Penn State, and Virginia Tech and other U.S. schools, as well as teams from Germany, Spain and Canada, make up the 20-contestant list. Up to 200,000 people are expected to tour the 20 houses over the course of two weeks, through Oct. 21, after the judging has been completed.
The criteria include running the entire house on solar-generated power while creating a pleasing and healthy environment, all within 800 square feet, the size of a small mobile home.
It has been as much like building a jewelry box as it has been like building a house. Cutting-edge technology had to be pared down to slip inside the walls, ceiling and floor, in a rubric that allows for references to vernacular architecture as well as compact contemporary design.
The little solar house speaks of its Louisiana heritage. The roof is a giant sun catcher, with 39 photovoltic panels, for providing electricity to the home, and one custom-designed flat plate solar thermal collector, which heats water. The solar panels are high-tech kin to tin roofs, and read the same way, even overhanging the walls to provide shade. The exterior walls are fitted with precisely hung cypress siding on a frame that allows airflow behind the boards, wrapping the house in a cooling air cloak beneath the wooden skin.
One of the most distinctive architectural elements is that the team included an old-timey “dog trot” breezeway through the middle of the house. With the kitchen on one side, living room, bath and bedroom on the other, the glass-walled breezeway can act as a dining room, or the glass doors can slide open, mosquito screen roll down to contain an interior porch, or the whole shebang can open to the air, mingling inner space with outdoors to create a whole lot more elbow room. Add on 1,700 square feet of wooden deck that surrounds the little house and you’ve got 2,500 square feet to stroll around in. Place the cypress planters, already green with sweet bay magnolia, ripening tomatoes and fragrant basil on the deck for an instant garden.
The Beausoleil architects spent a lot of time thinking like old school Louisiana builders, focusing on developing cross breezes in every interior space to cut down on energy demand. Toe-high panes correspond with high transoms to coax cross ventilation. When the weather won’t cooperate, a compact ductless air-conditioning system steps up to cool the house one room at a time.
Aesthetic touches are everywhere. The kitchen is surprisingly roomy with a full size stove, ipe or ironwood countertops, stainless steel appliances, and enough cabinet space to hold a healthy collection of gumbo pots. Hand-made cypress and translucent panel doors give the bathroom and bedroom privacy. Louisiana art donated by painters such as the late Elemore Morgan Jr., Bryan Lafaye, Kathy Reed and Steve Breaux will bring local color to the nation’s capital. Lafayette band Beausoleil will be on hand to create the Acadiana surround sound. And then of course, the UL contingent will draw its not-so-secret weapon. “Oh, yeah, we’ll be cooking,” says Chappuis. “I don’t know how Iowa State or the University of Arizona will feel about that.”
The Beausoleil House is holding a bon voyage open house on Sept. 17, from 6:30-9 p.m. for the public to come take a gander at our Solar Decathlon entry. The house is located at 216 Pinhook, in the parking lot of the United Way campus. The project is still looking for donations to help send a team of 26 students up to Washington to be there over the course of the 24-day duration of the competition. The total cost for transportation and housing of the house and its crew is $100,000. You can make a donation by going to the Web site at www.beausoleilhome.org , or call Geoff Gjertson at 278-2722.
JUNE 19 Former Saint Steve Gleason, who is paralyzed by ALS, released a statement Tuesday in response to the Atlanta radio station's skit making fun of him and the disease, this Picayune post reports. What did he say? He said he'd accepted the apology of the DJs who did it, notes that at least the incident has got people talking about ALS, and asks anyone who is burning to take action about it to do so -- by helping him fight ALS.
JUNE 19 Blogger Ian McGibboney takes a look at the Gleason incident in this post. He makes a good argument about the difference between having free speech and being free from consequences for your speech (which none of us is). He also admits that many of us got upset before we listened to the skit -- but lets us know that the reality is far worse than we can imagine. It was the incredibly bad judgment, even more than the actual speech, that probably got those DJs fired, he opines.
JUNE 19 Washington Post blogger Aaron Blake writes about Sen. Guillory's switch to the GOP in this post. He writes what most political watchers in Louisiana know: Guillory was a Republican before he decided to run for the senate seat in a mostly-D St. Landry district, and has switched back now that he plans to run for Lt. Gov. in a mostly-R state. But how come Blake missed Guillory's appearance on a TLC pageant show? Now that is a video we'd like to see. (Again).
JUNE 19 Here's another Washington Post blog post about a Louisiana politician, and it's just plain scathing. Ezra Klein says Jindal's Politico post was "insulting" to the intelligence of voters, and adds that Jindal is personifying the "stupid" he's railed against, by being an "elite" who convinces GOP activists of "things that aren't true." Me-ow.
JUNE 19 Here's Gov. Jindal's post in Politico, in which he asks the GOP to get over losing to Obama (again) and stop "the bedwetting." (Uh, what?) He gives his Republican buddies what is probably a nerd's idea of a coach's motivational talk, which starts with a list of accomplishments that they can't seem to exploit and ending with an absurd description of liberals that sounds like a character treatment for a Fox "News" movie scripted by Gordon Liddy. Sure, he's preaching to the choir, but even the choir's not this gullible.
JUNE 19 Lamar Parmentel read Gov. Jindal's post on Politico, but thinks it was so dumb it probably was published in the wrong paper. This post by Lamar on the Daily Kingfish opines that possibly Jindal's post was destined for the Onion -- because the governor couldn't possibly be serious here. If you listen closely, you can hear the staff of the Kingfish giggling.
JUNE 19 Blogger Robert Mann posts from Turkey, a country he has visited several times in the past few years. Mann gives an interesting overview of the current political and societal climate of the country, which -- if you're living under a rock and don't know -- is experiencing protests and turmoil these days. Mann promises to post as much as he can during his trip, which should be fascinating reading.
JUNE 19 Blogger CB Forgotston says the legislature is keeping the vicious cycle going with its funding of new buildings for the community college/technical college system. Universities across the state need maintenance and improvement on existing buildings, and the solution is to build new buildings at other schools? By the time the bonds are paid off, those buildings will be falling down, too, CB says.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again, it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to go public this year.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.