Joe Simmons and Tricia Day are living the green life.
The couple’s contemporary-style home was built with environmental preservation in mind.“Energy efficiency is what this house is about,” Day said.
Electricity is provided by solar panels working with backup batteries.
“The system is so well planned that the first time we lost electricity in the neighborhood, we didn’t even know it,” Simmons said.
Rainwater is collected off the roof and routed to a 5,000-gallon cistern buried in the front yard. That water, backed up by a freshwater well, is used to irrigate the yard.
The home is constructed of insulated concrete forms reinforced with steel bars.
“The Big Bad Wolf can huff and puff and knock himself out,” Simmons said.
The home is tightly sealed. Where one surface touches another, the opening is filled with silicone caulk.
“Only a tiny bit of outside air gets in,” Simmons said. “It’s like an oversized Igloo cooler. The air-conditioner controls the humidity so well that we keep the house at 77 degrees in the summer because there is so little humidity.”
Because of the tremendous amount of insulation, the temperature in the attic is almost as cool as the house, even on the hottest days.
All of the interior doors, which have no thresholds to make them wheelchair accessible, are architectural salvage. Most have barn-door closures rather than hinges.
“You can easily push them out of the way,” Day said.
Woodwork and cabinets in the living room, dining room, kitchen and library were all made by Ford Thomas of pecan wood taken from trees on the couple’s lot on Steele Boulevard.
“Ford found a retired shop teacher from the East Baton Rouge schools,” Simmons said. “He brought a portable lumber mill to the lot and spent a day and a half milling the wood.”
The wood was air-dried on the property for nine months and then taken to Thomas’ shop, where he made the cabinets, as well as the dining table and chairs.
Artist Steve Wilson designed and built two glass windows representing the Mississippi River for the front door, which opens to a foyer leading to the large living room.
On the right is the dining area adjacent to the kitchen with its pecan wood cabinets, stainless steel appliances and counters made of recycled paper, which are “harder than granite,” Simmons said.
The couple measured their cookware and kitchen gadgets so that each item has its specific place.
Toward the back of the living room is a large screened porch with an outdoor kitchen, all with a view to a pool. Behind the kitchen is a library, Day’s favorite room.
A hall on the west side of the house leads to the master suite with two wheelchair-ready bathrooms. Upstairs are two bedrooms and two baths.
The yard is surrounded at the front and back with thick bamboo that was planted by the previous owner decades ago. On the east side, Simmons and Day continued the bamboo theme with a bamboo and metal fence. On the west side is a contemporary-style greenhouse built against a stucco wall.
Even though Day moved many things she had in her previous house, she spent a year researching items for the new house. Her goal was to use as many local products and artisans as she could.
“I was looking for things that were unique, different and contemporary,” she said.
Architect Lionel Bailey, who designed the house, believes that the home’s contemporary design gives a lot of latitude.
“You can weave antiques in with modern things,” he said.
White and gray are they only paint colors used in the house, which has no crown moldings. Most of the floors are the actual slab treated with a decorative rock-salt process.
“Using fewer materials is an important part of building green,” Day said.
The home has many windows but no draperies.
“We wanted it all to be cohesive because it is so open,” she said. “We wanted the light.”
Rick Vineyard of the Precision Construction Group and superintendent Brian Barger built the house. David Cano of Iron Design did all of the metal work including the screened porch, fence and the stairway. Landscaping was designed by Jeb Barber, of Makaira Landscape, and Bill Rountree using some plants from the couple’s previous house.
After years of research and planning and two years of building, Simmons and Day are enjoying their project.
“We wanted to do right, and we wanted to do well,” Simmons said.