Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Architect's Mud Island residence first in Memphis to receive LEED honor

From today's Commercial Appeal...

Architect's Mud Island residence first in Memphis to receive LEED honor
By Tom Bailey Jr.

A 2,500-square-foot house needs 68 tough points to attain Silver LEED status, and sacrifices a point if too much glass is placed on the hot western wall.

But architect Barry Alan Yoakum didn't have a choice if his sleek home on Mud Island was to have a view of the Mississippi River.

"It's why I bought the lot," the archimania principal said of the vista.

Despite the home's orientation, Yoakum's "Sky Cottage" this fall became the first custom-built home in Memphis to receive the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

He just had to "work the design" harder to get it.

The extra effort included using a high-performance glass that excels in not letting the outside temperature affect the inside temperature.

The U.S. Green Building Council had certified 3,050 LEED homes across the country as of last month. Another 19,063 are registered, meaning they're in the pipeline for certification.

In January, Yoakum hired a "provider" -- a third-party business -- to inspect and verify for the U.S. Green Building Council that Sky Cottage met the requirements for a Silver LEED certification.

Yoakum said he studied the council's list of certified homes in Tennessee and found that no other architect in the state has a LEED home.

Five other archimania designers worked on his house. Yoakum said the LEED attainment shows the firm's commitment to sustainable, environmentally friendly design.

"It's an extension of our work at archimania. You should try to live what you do . . .

"We can say we've done it and not just talked about it, or just did it for other people," he said.

Thirteen other Memphis residences were designated as LEED structures last summer, but they are in a different category than Yoakum's. They are apartment units in the new University Place Hope VI redevelopment.

Even though Yoakum's house has more than 2,500 square feet and glass comprises a high percentage of its walls, the utility bills have averaged less than $180 a month, he said.

"It's certified, meaning you've gone through the hurdles," Yoakum said.

The second Memphis home to achieve LEED status likely will be the "Terra House," 586 N. Main, that was designed by University of Memphis architecture students, said Becky Williamson, staff member of Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division's EcoBuild program.

"It takes forever to get the (LEED) paperwork done," she said.

Yoakum also enrolled his house in the EcoBuild program.

EcoBuild is simpler than LEED, in that it prescribes exactly what the home builder has to do to ensure the house will use energy efficiently.

EcoBuild focuses exclusively on measures that allow the house to save energy, while LEED encompasses other environmental issues such as recycled building materials, Williamson said.

Generally, power bills for homes built to EcoBuild standards are at least 30 percent less, she said.

-- Tom Bailey Jr.: 529-2388

EcoBuild, too

People building houses can participate in Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division's EcoBuild program and save big on power bills.

MLG&W prescribes specific, energy-saving ways to construct the house, and inspects the site twice during construction.

Since the program began five years ago, 523 homes have qualified. Compared to homes that just meet codes, one MLG&W study found that power bills for EcoBuild homes are 34 percent less for electricity and 56 percent less for natural gas, spokesman Becky Williamson said.

The program fee for a house under 2,500 square feet is less than $350.

Visit mlgw.com for more information, or email EcoBUILD@mlgw.org.

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