CSU, Chico News

Chico Gets Its First Two LEED Homes—and They Are Gold!

Date: 03-03-2011

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Jim O’Bannon
Construction Management

Faculty and students from the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Construction Management at California State University, Chico partnered with local builders and the city of Chico to design and build two homes in January 2010 for Catalyst, a service provider for victims of domestic violence and their children.

These homes were recently awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold level of certification by the U.S Green Building Council (USGBC).

The homes were designed by students and built by students and volunteers according to the principles of sustainable development, often called “green building.” They are the first two homes awarded LEED certification in Chico.

LEED is an internationally recognized certification for buildings of all types that display an exceptional level of commitment to environmental design and building practices. LEED Gold certification is one of the highest levels of achievement that a building can reach.

The certification process is independently verified and ensures that the buildings meet the strictest standards of energy efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, natural resource conservation and efficiency, water efficiency and indoor environmental quality. Green buildings provide a living environment that promotes better health and building lifespan, while minimizing the impacts associated with energy and water consumption.

“Usually LEED certified houses cost more to build due to the strict requirements the process must adhere to,” said Jim O’Bannon, one of the faculty advisers from the construction management department. “However, due to the extensive planning and industry involvement, the actual cost of these homes was 30 percent less than a standard home.”

The two homes were certified by USGBC third-party raters as being 31.7 percent more efficient than the strictest California energy code, referred to as Title 24. In addition, students used the following sustainable practices during construction:

  • Using maximum erosion control
  • Installing drought-tolerant landscape
  • Creating permeable surfaces
  • Treating wood with non-toxic pest control
  • Installing high-efficiency water-saving fixtures and fittings
  • Installing tankless water heaters and efficient domestic water systems
  • Installing improved, high-efficiency lighting
  • Installing very efficient Energy Star labeled appliances

The construction process was designed by students to increase framing efficiencies and significantly reduce waste through off-site prefabrication. The most sustainable, environmentally friendly products were used, and all woods were Forest Stewardship Council certified. The insulation was made of recycled materials, all adhesives were low volatile organic compounds (VOC), and all of the floors were sealed, burnished concrete.

Once the houses were constructed, students developed and wrote a homeowner education training program. Occupants were taught how to live sustainably in a home with a very low carbon footprint and more comfortably with a very low energy and maintenance costs.

These homes will serve as transitional housing for women and children who are trying to return to the community. They represent a milestone in the community’s commitment to local families that experience abuse and to the environment.

“When combined with the local volunteer effort to build these homes and the tremendously important work that Catalyst does in supporting victims of domestic abuse, the positive impact this project has had should serve as a model for people coming together to make a difference in our community,” said O’Bannon.

It took a tremendous amount of time, energy, knowledge and commitment to complete these two homes. O’Bannon said that

  • 150 students and six faculty were involved;
  • Approximately 5,000 hours were expended in the construction;
  • More than 200 hours were expended for LEED construction efforts, including the application and third-party inspection;
  • Four different Chico State departments from two colleges were involved;
  • and 16 local builders/contractors contributed time, tools and expertise.

Two additional transitional housing bungalows were completed this past January. These homes were also built following USGBC guidelines.