The award-winning BeauSoleil Home, for a decade a point of pride on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus, was built to withstand 140 mph hurricane winds. But it couldn’t survive the Formosa termite.
UL Lafayette President E. Joseph Savoie has requested that the University of Louisiana System permit the local campus to demolish the 800-square-foot structure “because of an on-going termite and maintenance problem.”
In a Nov. 7 letter to system President James Henderson, Savoie wrote, “It will be more costly to repair this facility than its value.”
To demolish the home, UL Lafayette needs approval from the system’s Board of Supervisors, which is scheduled to vote on the request Thursday at its December meeting in Baton Rouge. That’s in keeping with state law regarding demolition of state buildings.
But the demolition won’t come without regrets. The BeauSoleil Home was designed and created by a UL Lafayette student team and competed in the 2009 SolarDecathlon, an international university competition hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C.
Competitors usually hail from prestigious institutions, and UL Lafayette prized its place among the 2009 finalist field for a sustainable home that drew upon native Louisiana architectural themes and accented Louisiana lifestyles, including kitchen and outdoor entertainment. UL Lafayette’s “Team BeauSoleil” took honors that year for People’s Choice and Market Viability.
Architect Magazine described the BeauSoleil House as “a traditional dogtrot-style house with a twist: The 10-foot-square dogtrot corridor forms a traditional porch.” The porch could be open or closed to the elements using hanging and sliding doors.
The one-bedroom home featured a rain catchment system, skylight, wraparound porch and a solar thermal system. It generated its own electricity and water and was designed to build from $125,000 to $150,000.
“The house is a hybrid structure that combines Louisiana culture and lifestyle with modern sustainable technology,” UL Lafayette says on its website. The campus hosted tours of the home.
Scott Hebert, UL Lafayette’s manager of facility planning, said the campus has been battling the Formosa termite problem at the BeauSoleil Home for about three years, defeating termites in one part of the house only to have them surface elsewhere later.
“We noticed them in the walls, then in the floor a year later,” he said. After they treated there, UL found the termites in another wall.
Donald Braly, termite manager for J&J Pest Control in Lafayette, said Formosa termites came to the U.S. from Asia in the 1950s, entering the U.S. through ports. He said by the early 2000s, they were an emerging problem for South Louisiana homeowners and have since become more prevalent in his company’s service area, which extends from Morgan City to Opelousas, Butte La Rose to Duson.
He said the Formosa termites thrive in decaying trees and rotting wood and can strike homes from under the ground and in the air. High temperatures and humidity encourage their existence, he said.
“They’re here for sure,” Braly said. “They’re not going anywhere.”
He said his company gets an above average number of calls for neighborhoods near Girard Park, which the BeauSoleil Home faces. The BeauSoleil Home was placed near Fletcher Hall, where the art and architecture departments reside, with a March 2010 dedication ceremony.
Hebert said the BeauSoleil Home was “a great building, a great project for the (design) team.” But, he said, it wasn’t designed to last forever on campus.
He said most new structures on UL Lafayette’s campus are built with concrete and steel and won’t enable termites to thrive.