What happens when you bring together 18 builders and give them 106 hours to build an eco-friendly home and a sustainable church in New Orleans? Besides a two-hour season finale for ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” you get relief for the Usea family of Westwego, La., which had been displaced not once, but twice by two hurricanes, flooding, and a tornado, and a new, safer house of worship. (Click here to read more about the Useas and the Noah’s Ark Missionary Baptist Church)
You also get “an incredibly humbling experience,” says David Hall, CEO of Asheville, N.C.-based Deltec Homes, the lead builder of the “Extreme Makeover” project, which was completed in March and was showcased in the May 18 episode.
“Watching the show brought back all of those wonderful memories of our time in New Orleans and all of the emotion,” he adds.
Following Deltec’s wind-resistant, round-house style, the team crafted two energy-efficient buildings: a home that is certified LEED-Platinum and NAHB Gold and a church boasting similar green features (due to time constraints and resources, Hall says the team was unable to earn any type of green certification for the church).
Perhaps the most spectacular detail of the home and church is their ability to withstand winds of up to 130 mph, mostly due to their round shape, a feature that certainly comes in handy in the hurricane-susceptible Bayou Belt. “The home [and church are] very wind resistant,” Hall explains. “We had eight homes in the direct path of [Hurricane] Katrina and not a single one of them suffered any structural damage at all.”
The structure also is a model of energy efficiency (it will use an estimated 37% less energy than the average home), water efficiency (an estimated use of 5,000 gallons per month, 7,000 gallons less per month than what the NAHB estimates a family of four typically uses), and resource efficiency (panelized construction equates to 78 percent less waste during construction).
Most importantly, Deltec Homes provided the Usea family with a homeowner’s manual to help the family understand its sustainable home and how to use and maintain it.
To create an efficient envelope and indoor environment, the team employed spray-foam insulation, storm-rated housewrap, and high-performance windows. The crawlspace is sealed, conditioned, and dehumidified; ductwork is sealed and insulated; and the 16-SEER HVAC system was zoned and sized properly. The home’s indoor air quality benefits from high-flow bath fans with delay switches, low-VOC paints and finishes, and a kitchen fan that is vented to the outdoors.
The house also features solar hot water supplemented by tankless water heaters that are close to the hot water sources. Toilets use roughly 1 gpf.
The project utilized sustainable landscape practices, including erosion-controlling straw bales during construction, drivable permeable pavers, and native-species landscaping. Eleven rain barrels will provide the home with 594 gallons of catchment, and the property includes a drip irrigation system.
To address termites, which are perhaps the second biggest threat to homes in the New Orleans region next to tropical storms, the house’s structural lumber was infused with a non-toxic borate treatment; the concrete foundation was protected with a metal termite shield.
All of these features culminated in a dramatic reveal to the homeowners, an event Hall describes as the highlight of the project. “No question about it,” he noted.
Hall says the team, which included a number of “Extreme Makeover” veterans, bonded quickly into a “band of brothers.” “Within about two hours of all of the guys getting together, all the egos went out the window,” he recalls. “I was blessed to work with some of the most incredible people that week that I’ve ever met in my life.”
And pulling it all off in less than five days? "You do it with an incredible amount of planning, an incredible amount of talent, and an incredible amount of heart.”