Architect Edward Jon Cazayoux begins “A Manual for the Environmental & Climatic Responsive Restoration & Renovation of Older Houses in Louisiana” with a simple idea from Henry David Thoreau: “What’s the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”
Cazayoux’s work explores the uses of passive climate-driven architectural design, preferred material and design solutions, as well as historical models of implementation. “At present,” he notes, “the majority of our energy sources are not only finite, costly, political, undependable, vulnerable, but also environmentally degenerative.” Calling upon the work of contemporary scholars and historical figures such as Vitruvius, Cazayoux questions modern practices of active cooling systems and presents simple illustrations to explain complex concepts, ranging from the laws of thermodynamics, incandescent vs. fluorescent lighting, natural ventilation, and sealed attics.
While the manual was originally published in 2003, it still offers valuable information to people who are looking to restore or renovate historical structures with a sustainable approach. The manual also provides treatments to and selection of material suggestions. For instance, Cazayoux details preferred roofing design details such as white-colored shingles, thicker roof sheathing, and ventilated air spaces with corresponding illustrations for ease of understanding. Cazayoux and Edmond Lawrence Vige completed all the drawings and diagrams for the project.
One of the most challenging aspects of environmental design to understand is the difference in cooling spaces and cooling people. Cazayoux describes various cooling efforts – both passive (cross breezes, etc.) and active (air conditioning, etc.) – and what their best uses are. Ceiling fans, a staple in any home, “cool people and not spaces,” so Cazayoux recommends only having them on while people are actually occupying a space. A common misconception debunked with clear suggestions on how to better use energy in a home, this is Cazayoux’s work in essence.
Cazayoux also promotes heritage conservation, but from an environmentally-conscious perspective. “This manual is designed to encourage the individual to not only save energy,” he notes. “But to save the architectural fabric of our culture.” As cypress wood – called “wood eternal” by Louisiana French colonists – is a common building material in Louisiana, recycling building materials is an option for many construction projects that should be carefully considered.
The first chapter of the manual walks the reader through several historical precedents, ranging from native peoples’ construction methods to both Spanish and French colonists. “It is important to know what the people we inherited this planet from did to live with the natural environment, before the Industrial Revolution, to see a sustainable future,” Cazayoux explains. The precedents study the environmental impacts of various typologies and offers design solutions to heat gain, ventilation, and other sustainable design initiatives that can be implemented in today’s housing stock.
The entire project is available to download as a PDF from the State of Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.