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Extreme Makeover Rebuilds Home Destroyed by Katrina

For the Usea family in Westwego, LA, disaster struck twice: first, when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home in August 2005, and then again, when a tornado hit their rebuilt home. But the tragedy became an opportunity when ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” asked Deltec Homes to lead a team of builders to rebuild the Usea home for the show's May 18, 2008, season finale.

 

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TV crews documented the whole process for audiences of the popular show, which dedicates each episode to rebuilding a deserving family’s run-down house in less than seven days. The crew working on the Useas' home did it all in 106 hours stretched over five days, and in the end, they had Louisiana’s first LEED-certified home, as well as the first “Extreme Makeover” home to be certified green.

Deltec was selected because of its expertise in building hurricane-resistant houses – eight Deltec homes in Katrina’s direct path escaped without structural damage – but the company quickly decided the project would also provide a great opportunity to showcase the best in sustainable building practices for a worldwide audience. They opted for LEED for Homes because it helped ensure a holistic, integrated process from design to finish and provided confidence that the home would be as efficient, healthy and sustainable as possible. The home also was certified as an ENERGY STAR®-qualified home.

The unique challenges of going green on TV

The all-volunteer team building the Useas' home had to work under a whole set of constraints that other green homebuilders don’t face – and they still managed to build a model of efficiency and health at the Platinum level. One design challenge was lighting: The TV production crews needed a certain amount of light to be able to properly film the home, and even though the team worked to reach a compromise with the crew on the number of lights, the amount of light far exceeded what a typical home requires. The energy-efficiency solution was threefold: All lights were fluorescent, the home was built with a conditioned attic to prevent light heat loss, and additional switches were installed to give the homeowner greater control over downlighting.

Waste management was difficult because the show’s staging area essentially took over a couple of blocks in the Useas' neighborhood, with hundreds of volunteers and workers needing to be bunked and fed onsite. This required extra vigilance in keeping waste at a minimum. The tight time schedule meant some of the carefully selected low-flow water fixtures were not available in time for the production deadlines, and the show’s producers did not want to sacrifice aesthetics by selecting more readily available products from another manufacturer. So to make up for the water-efficiency opportunities lost by tough plumbing choices, the crew pushed harder in other areas, such as rainwater collection and irrigation.

Strategies and results

The “Extreme Makeover” home made use of several unique opportunities to maximize certain green features despite special challenges. The home received all 10 of the available Links & Locations points. It also earned two of three Awareness & Education points, with about 1 billion people around the world watching the show and seeing what makes a home green.

The home maintains a sustainable site by being completely devoid of conventional, water-guzzling turf. Some 85% of the lot is permeable, allowing rainwater to filter into the ground rather than polluting the aquifer as runoff. Energy use is reduced by 37% over conventional new homes with a thermal envelope tightly sealed by spray foam. Cooling efficiency is 45% better than a conventional new home, a major coup in muggy Louisiana. Three separate water-heating systems serve three zones of the house to minimize travel distance for hot water. The house is stocked with ENERGY STAR®-rated windows and appliances. The home was panelized ahead of time, using 100% renewable energy.

LEED Credits

(For more information, read about the LEED credit categories.)

Sustainable Sites (17 points / 22 available)

  • No conventional turf.
  • Extreme non-toxic pest-control measures, resulting not just in Sustainable Sites points but also Innovation & Design points toward LEED certification.
  • 85% permeable lot. The crew aimed for 100% permeability, but local code required a paved driveway rather than the gravel driveway crews had planned.

Water Efficiency (8 points / 15 available)

  • Rainwater harvesting.
  • High-efficiency irrigation tied to the rain-collection system. All irrigation water is rain water.
  • High-efficiency plumbing fixtures, dishwasher and clothes washer.

Energy & Atmosphere (24 points / 38 available)

  • Extremely well-sealed thermal envelope, utilizing spray foam and closed crawlspace construction. All ductwork is within conditioned space.
  • HERS score of 63, resulting in 37% less energy use than a typical conventional new home.
  • ENERGY STAR®-rated windows.
  • Compact plumbing design: Three separate hot-water systems serve three zones of the house to minimize travel distance for hot water.
  • Solar hot-water system.
  • ENERGY STAR®-rated appliances.
  • More than 90% fluorescent lighting.

Materials & Resources (8 points / 16 available)

  • The home was panelized ahead of time using 100% renewable energy. The Deltec production facility has a 273-panel solar array on its roof, making it one of the largest solar energy producers in North Carolina.
  • The prefabrication of the structural shell uses 78% less waste than a typical stick-built home.
  • Hurricane-resistant design and construction for enhanced durability, forestalling the need for future repairs and replacements, minimizing waste.

Indoor Environmental Quality (14 points / 21 available)

  • Energy-recovery ventilator (ERV) system installed for optimal delivery of fresh air.
  • Careful moisture management within the home, including sealed crawlspace, lumber package treated against mold, and bath fans with automatic timers connected to the bathroom lights.
  • Enhanced air filtering.
  • No attached garage.

Innovation & Design (5.5 points / 11 available)

  • Third-party durability verification.

Awareness & Education (2 points / 3 available)

  • "Extreme Makeover" has a worldwide audience of about 1 billion people.

Location & Linkages (10 points / 10 available)

  • Perfect score: The home received every credit available in this category.
About Deltec Homes

Deltec Homes has been building energy-efficient homes across the United States for 40 years. It uses 100% renewable energy to produce the structural components of its homes and ships them directly to the job site, where they are assembled and finished by local labor.

Other key team members

 

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Extreme Makeover Rebuilds Home Destroyed by Katrina:  Created on July 11th, 2008.  Last Modified on June 19th, 2011

 

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About The U.S. Green Building Council

The U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green homes and buildings. LEED gives home and building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their homes' or buildings’ performance. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. The Green Home Guide is a resource created by the U.S. Green Building Council.


 

 

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