Claudette Hanks Reichel, Ed.D – Building Science & Housing Resilience: Bringing Research to Practice

Air Date: 6-8-2018|Episode 506

This week on IAQradio+ we welcome Dr. Claudette Hanks Reichel for a discussion on building science, LaHouse, resilience and bringing research to practice.  Dr. Hanks Reichel is Professor and Extension Housing Specialist with Louisiana State University AgCenter. She serves as Director of LaHouse Resource Center, a public exhibit of multiple high performance housing solutions and hub of Extension education programs to advance resource-efficient, durable and healthy housing for the southern climate and natural hazards.

Reichel has developed numerous educational outreach programs and resources relating to housing, including energy-efficiency, healthy homes, hurricane and flood resilience and others. She has authored more than 100 Extension publications, presented at numerous professional events, was twice a featured speaker at the National Building Museum in Washington DC, and has received 12 national and state level awards for program excellence and impact.
Z-Man’s Blog:

Shape your home to shape your future

According to Claudette Hanks Reichel, Ed.D she is an oddity in the teaching profession. She neither teaches classes nor does research. 100% of her work consists of doing educational outreach for the Louisiana State University’s Ag Center. While in graduate school she started focusing on trends:  first post disaster repair, then energy efficiency, followed by indoor air quality and now sustainability. Which according to her, pulls together and integrates them all.

Nuggets mined from today’s episode:

The LaHouse project grew out of an 8 minute presentation the subject of which was “hopes and dreams for the future” made by Claudette in front of the chancellor. She wanted to emulate the Florida House in Sarasota, FL which is a life-size, tangible demonstration facility. The chancellor first said yes and then told her to raise the funds. She has engaged people nationwide with the slogan “shape your home to shape your future”.

The LaHouse applies today’s technology for current benefit. A permanent demo home equipped as a showcase of solutions for housing that is resource efficient, durable, healthy, convenient and practical for the region’s climate and natural hazards, complicated by the inclusion of multiple types of high-performance building systems and products. LaHouse is comprised of two buildings, the home and the meeting space. LaHouse is a demonstrable resource that showcases durability, IAQ, universal design, practicality, convenience and marketability. Each wing of the home is a different building system. Mid-construction and exposed to the elements the home weathered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Put roofing on and exhibited for 2 years. Completed construction in 2008. The borate treated wood used in the home is:  insect, fungi and fire resistant. The LaHouse has been storm and termite tested.

Interestingly, the exterior of LaHouse was required to match LSU’s Italian Renaissance Style featuring towers and arches.

Hurricane and storm related roof damage is the biggest problem in the region. She advises the use of Class G or H shingles (wind tested at 150 mph), ring shank nails, and the use of an additional moisture barrier in addition to roofing felt. The options include synthetic underlayment with taped seams or peel & stick membrane.

During storms and hurricanes, it’s also important to protect structures from big holes caused by flying debris where loss of garage door results in amplified wind pressure damage inside homes.

Structural soffits are preferred over suspended soffits which are inadequately attached.

FEMA’s flood maps are for underwriting purposes not flooding determination. In Louisiana in 2016, 140,000 homes in were flooded topped by Houston in 2017; 40% of these homes were not on FEMA flood maps.

Following flood damage, too often it takes 12-18 months for people to be back in their homes due to competition for good contractors and needed building materials. Being out the home for lengthy periods adds undue stress and causes a severe financial burden. Following flooding, dishonest contractors prey upon the public.

“Flood Hardy” advice. Elevate what you can, use flood damage resistant materials, during post disasters or renovation consider building back washable, drainable and dryable.

Wild fire advice:  Use class A fire rated roofing. Eliminate combustibles, by cleaning debris from gutters and roof. Don’t use cellulose mulch adjacent to the home and don’t keep mulch 3 feet away from home. Place screen on vents as a barrier to flaming embers.

Benefits of 24” roof overhangs include:  surfaces stay cleaner, materials last longer and improves energy efficiency.

Build tight, ventilate right.

7+1.  Seven principles of healthy housing:

  • keep it dry
  • keep it clean
  • keep it pest-free
  • keep it ventilated
  • keep it safe
  • keep It contaminant-free
  • keep it maintained
  • The 8th is keep it comfortable

Supplemental dehumidification is required in hot and humid climates. Humidity load isn’t reduced by energy efficiency, so even energy efficient homes need dehumidification.

“Resilience is the ability to bounce back quickly after disaster”. “When homes are resilient less personal resilience is required.” Homes should be easy to clean and restore.

“Seeing the value of investing in resilience empowers home owners.”Due to all of her national outreach, Claudette has become the “face of disaster”.

Poor Excuses. We’ve been doing it this way for 30 years or it’s what is written in the building standard (minimum required by law). When it comes to housing, the public is expected to accept the lowest common denominator.

“Help people see what is possible and practical.”


LaHouse Resource Center

LaHouse Features and Exhibits

LaHouse Youtube

Building Science Corporation

Building America Solution Center

IAQ-Moisture Control Guidance for Building Design, Construction and Maintenance

Z-Man signing off

Trivia Question:

How many students were in LSU’s College of Agriculture’s first graduating class?

Trivia Answer: