COURhouse in Lafayette affordable, sustainable

Architecture students with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Building Institute are ready to reveal their latest project: COURhouse, an affordable, sustainable home built in an effort to revitalize the surrounding community.

The house, located in the Freetown area at 324 Jackson St., will be open to the public for its first showing Saturday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The asking price is $190,000.

COURhouse is the third home to be developed by UL-Lafayette’s Building Institute in a collaboration with Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority, a local agency that helps fund public projects.

“The idea is to do hands-on projects with students in the community, focusing on helping organizations and communities that need help and maybe couldn’t afford architectural services, but also doing a range of things to preserve culture and our environment,” said Geoff Gjertson, a UL-Lafayette architecture professor and co-director of the Building Institute.

The program was launched in 2011 with the Event House at 500 Madison St. The second home, NEXThouse, was built in 2012 at 319 Jackson St.

COURhouse is larger: 1,500 square feet with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The house features a central courtyard connecting the living room, kitchen and master bedroom to the outdoors and providing a sense of openness throughout the house.

“I think the most unique thing is the courtyard, which is unusual for a home in this area, not unusual for a place like New Orleans,” Gjertson said. “That was kind of the idea, to take the idea of a very urban, downtown dwelling, like in the French Quarter, and combine that with the idea of a more suburban house. What you get is a house that has different kinds of outdoor spaces.”

The courtyard can be accessed through a large, glass roll-up door in the kitchen, two sliding glass doors in the living room and French doors in the master bedroom.

Cypress wood, donated by Jeff Simeral from an Arnaudville home built in the 1800s, wraps the front porch of the house. The inside features concrete floors and custom concrete countertops.

Sustainability features include four solar panels on the roof, an instantaneous gas heater and energy-efficient appliances.

The goal of the building program is to set an example of how communities, like those around downtown, can grow in sustainable and affordable ways, Gjertson said.

“This experience was wonderful,” said Nick Clesi, an architecture graduate student and COURhouse project manager. “It’s probably one of the best programs out there as far as teaching students what the other side is to design and allowing us to understand how the things we draw get built.”

Clesi, along with students Barrett Bertrand, Abigail Comeau, Daniel Ferg, Liran Timianski and Jennifer Young, designed the home during the fall 2012 and spring 2013 semesters, and 25 students began building the home this summer with the help of J.C. Dugas Construction Associates Inc.

“The contractor actually hired me and three other students that designed the home to work with him and complete the home (in the fall),” Clesi said. “We had a big part of almost every aspect.”

The COURhouse project was funded by a zero-interest loan from LPTFA.

Offers on the house will be accepted at the showing Saturday.

The offers also can be delivered to LPTFA’s office at 910 Harding St. beginning Monday.