They say a man’s home is his castle, but for architect Steven Bingler, it’s more
like his masterpiece.
As founder and president of Concordia Architecture and Planning, Bingler
and his work have been featured in Architectural Digest, Newsweek and The New
York Times to name a few. Local projects of note include the Aquarium of the Americas and the Jackson Brewery Festival Marketplace. Most recently, his design for a sustainable home in the Lower Ninth Ward gained praise in actor Brad Pitt’s “Make It Right” design competition.
But of all of his projects, there is one that quite literally hit closest to home for Bingler. That was the construction of his 3,400-square-foot home that will soon become the only residence in the city and region to be GOLD certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Environmental Excellence Design (LEED) residential code. Although this new construction is on the cutting edge of modern architecture and design, it is comfortably set in a Carrollton-area neighborhood with wide, wrap-around porches and floor to ceiling windows. From the curb, it looks much like a traditional New Orleans home—but one for the 21st century.
A native of Virginia, Bingler moved to New Orleans in 1973, and lived in the French Quarter for nearly 30 years. There he gained an appreciation for the aesthetic value of the city’s distinct architecture, as well as its structural composition.
“Homes that were built here more than 200 years ago are really very modern in terms of energy-efficiency,” says Bingler. “High ceilings and open floor plans offered significant cross-ventilation. Plus, wide porches kept sunlight at bay on even the brightest summer days. In the 1800s they didn’t have energy as we now know it, so some of the oldest homes are the most-energy conscious, simply because they needed to be.”
With that in mind, Bingler laid out a complex plan to get back to basics by naturally lighting, cooling and heating the home. The first-story porch awning is coated to reflect sunlight away from home so it remains cool and shaded. The sunlight that is reflected away then bounces to another shallower awning between the second and third stories that extract the heat from the sunlight to indirectly brighten the home without flipping a switch.
For climate control purposes, the walls are treated with a reflective material and filled with celluloid insulation to keep cool air inside in warm weather and maintain warmth in the winter months. Windows and French doors made of double insulated e-rate glass are topped with motorized transoms to allow fresh air in. This air is captured through a chimney-effect and swept vertically through an open stairwell at the center of the home that connects all three stories. The air passes through a large attic fan and then released through a louvered window. As a backup plan for this system, the home relies on energy produced in underground geothermic wells and solar panels on the roof.
The roof also houses thermal containers that collect rainwater for use throughout the home’s plumbing systems. A portion of the rainwater is heated from solar power and stored in a tank in the attic until it’s safely used in the lavatory, laundry room and dishwasher. Another portion is stored in a large cistern on the side of the home, and is used in toilet tanks and garden hoses. Yet another portion is channeled underground to feed plants and vegetation in the front, back and side yards. This system not only maintains the landscaping, but it helps prevent street flooding since it doesn’t contribute to the overflow and the overuse of pumps. But Bingler points out that it’s going to take more than just one household to make significant changes across the board. “Our culture has a tendency to think about things short-term and time has come to change that mentality. We need to view these changes as investments—investments in our planet and our future.”
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the home is its room proportions. Configurations are based on “sacred geometries,” much like those employed in the designs of ancient Egyptian, Indian, Greek and Roman architecture, as well as Medieval European cathedrals and Himalayan temples. Bingler’s use of sacred geometry attests to his passion for art, music, science and spirituality and his appreciation of the interconnectedness that exists among them. As only a true Renaissance man could, Bingler has used that passion and appreciation, as well as curiosity and knowledge, as the tools to build something innovative, sustainable and beautiful.
When asked about his masterpiece, Bingler’s reply is simple. “It’s a different house. But more than that, it’s a different way of life. A better way of life if you ask me. It’s about living in sync with the natural world and living in harmony with the whole universe.”
Easy ways to go green
Angie Green, executive director of the Green Project, offers three small ways you can make a big impact on the local and global environment and economy.
Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL)
CLF light bulbs last longer and use 75-percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. Using CFLs help prevent global warming and shave more than $45 a month on your energy bill. Visitwww.greenlightneworleans.org for more information.
Join forces with neighbors, friends and City Council members to get curbside recycling back in your neighborhood. Until then, go tohttp://recycle.tulane.edu/NO_recycling_guide.pdfor dial 311 to learn where and when you can drop off your recyclables on City collection days.
Support local shops and eco-friendly vendors
“Make groceries” at one of the many local farmers’ markets and find unique handmade gifts at art markets around town. Patronize shops and eateries within walking distance from your home. These neighborhood establishments not only boost the local economy, but are essential to reducing sprawl, loss of habitat and the pollution that comes with automobile use.
Check out the Green Project’s Warehouse or other resale suppliers for good deals on recycled building materials. Remember to BYOB—Bring Your Own Bag—instead of
using paper or plastic.