Don and Beatriz Rudisill reach for the highest level of LEED certification
By Bethany Conway, The Las Cruces Bulletin
Editor’s note: This is
the first article in a series following the construction of Las
Cruces’ first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
Platinum Certified home. Though owners Don and Beatriz Rudisill will
not know whether they achieve this certification until their home is
complete, sharing their story will help others on their journey to
For Don Rudisill, the
story behind his home at 4367 Isleta Court is in many ways similar to
that of “the first penguin.”
Reaching for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum Certification – never before achieved in southern New Mexico – he is a lot like the first penguin that takes the plunge into cold, unfamiliar territory.
“When you watch a film
about penguins, most people notice how they bunch up on the edge of
the ice. No penguin wants to be the first to jump into the water
where unknown dangers may lurk,” Rudisill said, referencing an
excerpt from “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. “The same
happens with building something new. Many people like the idea of a
green home – improved energy efficiency, a healthier home and
improved utilization of the planet’s resources all sound good –
but there are many unknowns.”
After two years of intense planning and overcoming many obstacles, Rudisill is blazing a trail for others to follow – a green trail. He will accomplish this with the help of builder Jim Graham of Sun and Earth, who has 30 years of green-building experience.
“It a very ambitious
project,” said Miles Dyson, owner of Inspection Connection LC and
the only certified Home Energy Rater in Las Cruces. “He has it very
well laid out.”
Dyson, southern New
Mexico’s go-to guy when it comes to achieving LEED and Build Green
New Mexico (BGNM) certification, will inspect the home throughout the
entire process. Credit categories for LEED homes include Sustainable
Sights, Locations and Linkages, Indoor Environmental Quality, Water
Efficiency, Materials and Resources, Awareness and Education and
Energy and Atmosphere.
The trail began when Don
and Beatriz Rudisill sat down to create the home’s footprint. The
unusual floor plan is partially the result of the couple trying to
meet the LEED requirements for passive-solar design. According to the
LEED program, the maximum conditioned square footage for a
three-bedroom house should be 1,900 square feet. By going above this
amount, the couple loses points. By going below it, they gain points.
are trying to stay under 1,690 square feet, which gives us three
points (toward LEED Platinum Certification),” he said. By creating
a storage closet for seasonal clothing near the master bedroom and a
sunroom on the southeast side of the house – two areas that will
not be heated or air-conditioned – they will be able to add extra
space not counted toward their conditioned square footage.
“This is going to
generate a lot of solar heat in the winter,” Rudisill said of the
sunroom. “During the summer months, we intend just to leave the
windows open, and this will be a bonus room. Jim (Graham) is going to
put a fan in here, because in the winter it will produce surplus heat
that we will be able to blow into the house.” Solar hot water
panels hidden behind the parapet over the garge roof will provide
Another way they were able to gain points and energy efficiency was by keeping all of the hot water within a 20 foot radius. For this reason, the kitchen and bathrooms are all “clustered within the center of the house.”
“If you look at the
plans, we had this 20-foot circle drawn, and that created another
requirement for the floor plan,” Rudisill said.
When it came to the slab
itself, they used 30 percent fly ash – a waste product from coal
after it has been burned in a boiler.
Next on the list was the framing, which was done using finger-jointed lumber. “You take scraps that are too small to be used and make a usable piece out of it,” Rudisill said.
When it came to placing the Marvin windows with ULTREX fiberglass frames, Rudisill also had to be very particular in order to gain LEED points. “I put a lot of time into trying to capture the views because we are given glass budgets. You have to keep the glass within a certain percentage,” he said.
One of the most important
attributes of the home are the Structured Insulated Panels
manufactured by KC Panels of Animas, N.M, which will make up its
4-inch thick walls. Graham said this is the first time he has used
the insulated panels. The thermal resistance, or R-value of the
panels, is so high they perform almost twice as well as standard
6-inch walls and result in more than 30 square feet of space being
shifted from the walls to the available living space. They are held
together by polyurethane foam.
“The foam creates a
complete seal around the building,” Rudisill said. “So again,
through using this one product, we are saving space and improving
energy efficiency. The air-tight seal contributes to improved
indoor-air quality, and the foam has a class-one fire rating,
improving the safety of the home.”
From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Saturday, April 18, and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 19, during the
Guild of the Las Cruces Symphony Association’s green home tour,
titled The Greening of Las Cruces, residents of Las Cruces will get a
chance to visit the construction site and view these panels up close.
“I have an interest in
trying to get the information out there about what really goes into a
well-built house,” said Rudisill, adding that by educating the
public he is actually gaining more points toward the home’s
Though the Rudisills are
hopeful they will reach their goal, they won’t know if LEED
Platinum Certification will be achieved until the project is
“Being the first to
attempt the Platinum level means that we have to be the first in the
area to earn certain points. One of the areas that we are earning
points is by working as an integrated design team. We have been
working very hard as a team with Miles, Jim and several
subcontractors all putting their heads together to help ensure that
the rating is achieved.”
Assuming they achieve the
platinum rating, the Rudisills will receive $9.50 per square foot in
tax credits – close to $15,000.