Homeowner Karen Stubbs was not unfamiliar with home design challenges. She and her family had lived in several historic antebellum homes in Louisiana, which originally were constructed without indoor bathrooms and closets, let alone modern air conditioning or heating systems. Retrofitting those unique and historic living spaces for the needs of a family in the 21st century required creativity, patience and a good contractor. A design major in college with a background in architecture, Stubbs was closely involved with each project and oversaw many details.
Now that her children are older, have moved out of the house and have families of their own, Stubbs’ home needs have evolved. In 2009 she decided to undertake an extensive construction project—building a spacious but sustainable home on a lake in Ferriday, La. From the outset she wanted to emphasize the bucolic setting and create a house that fit in with, rather than dominated, its natural environment.
From start to finish, Stubbs placed a high importance on longevity and sustainability. “Today there is a lot of waste that goes on in housing,” she says. “You have to constantly be replenishing and repairing.” With that in mind, Stubbs wanted to build a lasting structure that would minimize waste and conserve energy.
Stubbs already was considering a metal roof. It is a fairly common choice in the South, where metal roofs can help combat the region’s punishing summer heat by reflecting sunlight. She also knew she wanted to offset the home’s energy use by installing solar panels or a wind turbine. As much as she wanted to utilize renewable energy sources, Stubbs was concerned about her long-term return on investment. “It takes several years to get payback on the solar system, but I don’t think you ever get your money back on a wind system unless you get some really consistent winds,” she explains. Her gaze became fixed on rooftop solar photovoltaic solutions.
Serendipity and an Internet search led Stubbs to a metal roofing system that could integrate easily with solar PV. She discussed with the metal manufacturer her concerns and desires for the residence, laying out the various options for a metal roofing system. After considering her options, Stubbs decided to go with an integrated PV product that can be paired with a variety of metal roofing panels.
The home’s roof consists of 45 16-inch-wide, 1 1/2-inch-thick SSR standing seam panels, creating a durable, classic-style roof profile with narrow batten standing seams. The light color of the metal panels—hickory moss—is designed not to absorb sunlight and has an Energy Star rating from the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program.
The integrated 5-kilowatt photovoltaic panels are made of durable laminate, which is ideal for metal roofs because it requires no additional structural support or roof penetrations and resists curling and contracting. Laminate also achieves a good relative efficiency under low light and high temperatures, which are common in Louisiana. And the strong panel-laminate bond withstands winds of up to 160 miles per hour. Karen Stubbs’ son, Nathan Stubbs of Baton Rouge, La., served as general contractor on the project and installed the roof and solar PV laminate panels.
Return on Investment
The 25-year warranty backing up the roof also pleased Stubbs, who is happy with her integrated metal/PV roofing system and already has seen a return on her investment. She says her air-conditioning bills were higher in the 1,800-square-foot antebellum cottage she once owned than in her current 3,500-square-foot residence. This is due largely to the offset in energy costs from the solar panels. The durability and longevity of the metal roof is in keeping with her desire to avoid the frequent “replenishing and repairing” other building materials require. Stubbs also appreciates how the light gray roof fades into the background to allow the serene lakeside setting to take center stage.
Other notable energy-saving features of the home include concrete floors with radiant heat, fiberglass doors and windows with high thermal performance, LED lighting and Energy Star appliances throughout the home. An energy-efficient on-demand water heater and two air-conditioning units with high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) scores further reduce energy waste. Exterior “night sky” lighting shines downward so as not to create any light pollution. This feature allows the home’s residents and guests to sit outside in the evening and admire the stars.
Stubbs wanted every element to contribute to the “ease of living” sensibility she wanted to create in the home. The four small bedrooms in the 2-story structure are designed for sleeping, not living. The smaller guest rooms are ideal for when her children and grandchildren visit, Stubbs notes. In fact, one guest room features bunk beds and kid-level peepholes into the first-floor dining room. The balance of the square footage is occupied primarily by open living areas, which are designed to encourage people to relax and spend time together.
The home also boasts three screened-in porches and a central breezeway, providing views of the lake from the front entrance. With ample lake views and large shared living spaces throughout the home, it’s also an ideal place for entertaining and throwing parties. In fact, Stubbs points out that she recently hosted a wedding in her home.
Karen Stubbs says she is quite pleased with how her new home combines livability and functionality with sustainability. She says, “It’s a way to be a good steward of the resources we have—to build a house that doesn’t disintegrate as quickly as it’s built.”
Heidi Moore writes about architecture, design and green living from Chicago.