Thursday, December 18, 2008

BeauSoleil: The Bottom Line

Solar Decathlon Update: Every two years 20 university teams are chosen, based on proposals, to design an all-solar home and assemble it on the National Mall in Washington DC for public viewing and judging. Check back each Wednesday as the NAV Blog reports on the process of the design and construction of BeauSoleil, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's entry. For more info about the project, visit their website at ttp://www.beausoleilhome.org/. And check out short film about the project here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsuziBrNeO4

Over the next few weeks, the NAV blog will post Q & A from a recent interview with TEAM BeauSoleil.

NAV blog -
Do you have any idea what a production model of the BeauSoleil home would cost? Does this prototype address “green on a budget”?

Geoff Gjertsen, TEAM BeauSoleil -

Certainly this has been one of our biggest goals and challenges for the project- to design an affordable, green home. The perceived and actual up-front costs of sustainable design have been a hindrance to full adoption by the public.

Fortunately, in our economic climate and with the cost of oil projected to sky-rocket again soon, the market for alternative energy will continue to increase, thus reducing costs. In particular, the costs of photovoltaics are predicted to decline dramatically in 2009. However, many of the systems and strategies in the BeauSoleil Home do not have a significant up-front cost.

It all starts with siting: orienting the home on an east-west axis, shading the home in the summer with deciduous trees, and installing operable windows to capture prevailing winds. Then the initial investment in PV's, rainwater harvesting, high-efficiency HVAC units, low-flow plumbing fixtures, energy-star appliances, low-E windows and high R-value SIPS construction will pay for itself in about seven years.

Prefabrication and mass-customization allow for the cost of the home to also be significantly reduced. So although the initial 800 square foot prototype is projected to cost $220,000, the production model with some modifications for permanent sites and without all the bells and whistles required for the competition, will cost approximately $100,000. (This cost is predicated on at least 100 units being produced by our modular home manufacturer, Louisiana System Built Homes.)

This price tag puts the home within reach of the median income family earning $40,000 per year in Louisiana. And although the cost per square foot may be higher than typical inefficient construction, the high energy-efficiency of the home will pay for itself in the short term, as stated earlier. And, and this is a big AND, the home owner gains a level of self-sufficiency unheard of in a conventional home, which is really one of the most important aspects of sustainable design.

The time is NOW for the BeauSoleil Home along the Gulf Coast.


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