A local fraternity’s effort to become greener has its members striving for gold – certification, that is.
The international fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha is pushing to rebuild its current house into a gold-standard Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building. If all goes as planned, the new house will be the first LEED-NC (new construction) building in San Luis Obispo.
“The idea of building something sustainable that will set a new standard for the way people can live makes good sense environmentally, socially and economically,” said Kevin Hauber, Lambda Alpha Chi, a Cal Poly alumnus and treasurer of the fraternity’s housing corporation.
Presently, the fraternity owns the property at 1292 Foothill Blvd. where its home now sits. For decades the house incurred costly energy and operating costs, Hauber said.
Since acquiring the neighboring lot last year, fraternity brothers have been working with local architects and city officials to replace the existing house with a bigger, more energy-efficient house that will span both lots and be cheaper to maintain.
“We’re figuring on using this location permanently,” Hauber said. “Greener buildings cost less to operate in the long run.”
So far, city officials have welcomed the plan with open arms.The fraternity has already received approval from the planning commission and city council, even prompting city councilwoman Christine Mulholland to write to the editor of the San Luis Obispo Tribune earlier this year saying she was “impressed with the members of the fraternity” and thanking them for “bringing this wonderful design and project forward.”
The last step of the planning phase is approval from the architect review commission, which has already reviewed the plans once and suggested only minor revisions.
“The city has been so helpful and supportive,” Hauber said. “Sometimes dealing with municipalities can be a problem, but this has been a dream. Everyone is getting what they want.”
The new design calls for a three-story, 8,830 square-foot house with 16 bedrooms and an apartment for fraternity house parents. The new structure is designed to take maximum advantage of natural light and ventilation, and will include solar panels for electricity and water heating.
The design also calls for pervious pavers, or pavement that reduces runoff by allowing water to filter through it rather than being diverted into a storm drain, which will cover much of the property. Combined with drought tolerant landscape and eco-friendly building materials, these elements will greatly reduce the building’s carbon footprint, or the amount of fossil fuels needed to sustain it.
Building a new house according to LEED gold certification is not significantly more expensive than building the old-fashioned way.
“We’re not really predicting that it will be hugely more expensive than standard construction, it will just perform a heck of a lot better,” said Jim Duffy, a project architect with RRM Design Group, a local architect firm hired by the fraternity that specializes in sustainable projects.
Aside from their architect, many of the fraternity brothers are also involved in the design approval and LEED certification processes as well.
Shane Saltzgiver is a construction management senior, and has been actively involved in the approval process.
“Sustainability is the future of new construction, and this building is really raising the bar locally,” he said. “Once students live in this home, they will not want to live in any other building.”
Construction is expected to start in summer of 2009. Once the house is built, the fraternity intends to host classes for students and neighbors to learn how the unique building operates.
“This is not only an opportunity for us to do something positive socially and environmentally, it’s also a terrific educational opportunity,” Hauber said. “It’s really an all around win for everybody.”