LAFAYETTE — Try as she might, an overwhelmed and extremely grateful Louida Fuselier could not put into words just what it meant to be the owner of Lafayette Habitat for Humanity’s first “green” home.
A fire destroyed Fuselier’s old home at 448 Carver St. in 2008.
Her new home, which sits on the same site, was designed and built by University of Louisiana at Lafayette architecture and design graduates through a partnership with Lafayette Habitat for Humanity.
“It’s just so beautiful,” she said Friday during a dedication ceremony outside of the bright blue, energy-efficient home. “I think it’s just so nice. I never would have thought I’d see myself sitting in this spot.”
Fuselier, who is the sacristan at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, told those who had helped build her home that she prays for them every day and thanks God continually for his blessings.
“I didn’t feel like this would be possible, but I know with God all things are possible,” Fuselier said after the ceremony.
Matthew Heidel, Max Nochez, Joshua LaBorde and Jason Lantier designed the home under the leadership of W. Geoff Gjertson, a ULL associate professor of architecture.
Gjertson estimated that about 30 students spent more than 4,000 hours on the project. They were assisted by countless volunteers, he said.
The home features passive ventilation, recycled materials, spray-foam insulation, stained concrete flooring and a metal roof, which will last longer and help to reflect heat from the attic, which will defray cooling costs, LaBorde said.
The fact that the home was constructed as an urban in-fill project, meaning it was built in the same spot as Fuselier’s old home, also remains in line with sustainable building practices, LaBorde said.
Prior to the fire, Fuselier had lived in the neighborhood for more than 40 years.
“She didn’t want to leave this neighborhood,” LaBorde said. “She loved this neighborhood.”
The design team also incorporated salvaged materials taken from Fuselier’s old home, such as cedar siding, which was turned into a fence, and old wooden beams, which help to support the home’s vaulted ceilings and its side and front porches.
One of the home’s main features is a prayer wall that was built from salvaged two-by-four boards from Fuselier’s old house and two-by-four scraps from her new house and other Habitat building sites, LaBorde said.
Louisiana Solar Solutions donated 19 solar panels, which, once fully installed, will cut the home’s electricity bill roughly in half, LaBorde said.
Designers expect to receive at least a bronze certification from the National Association of Homebuilder’s Model Green Home Building certification.
Funding for the house was covered primarily through a $75,000 sponsorship from the Acadiana Realtor Association, said Melinda Taylor, executive director of the Lafayette Habitat for Humanity.
The group continues to raise money to help it replenish the expense, Taylor said.
“This has been a wonderful and very exciting journey that began more than a year ago,” said Taylor, who said she approached the university after seeing the architecture department’s work on the BeauSoleil Louisiana Solar Home.
Taylor said Habitat will revisit the design in the future when the organization continues its move toward a more neighborhood-focused approach to building affordable homes.
“This has been just a terrific collaboration and I think it’s exactly the direction that Habitat is heading,” Taylor said.
The 950 square feet, two-bedroom home came in about $5,000 above cost, a relatively small amount given all of the sustainable building features it incorporates, Gjertson said.
Fuselier will pay a zero-interest monthly mortgage of less than $400 to $450, Taylor said.
Like other Habitat homeowners, Fuselier’s monthly payments will be recycled back to allow the organization, which serves as both contractor and lender, to make more homes, Taylor said.
Construction began in June but the design phase dates back to last year, LaBorde said.
Fuselier will likely move into the home in about two weeks after workers complete a few finishing touches, Fuselier said.
Before blessing the home, the Rev. Hampton Davis, of Our Lady Queen of Peace, praised the design team for consulting, interviewing and listening to Fuselier’s suggestions.
Davis said he hopes the church can continue to partner with Habitat on future projects.
Paula Duncan, president of the Realtor Association of Acadiana, told Fuselier at Friday’s gathering that the association grieved with her when she lost her home.
“Today, we are proud to say, your joy is a joy to us,” Duncan said.