By Collin Kelley

Building a new house can be stressful, so imagine documenting all the problems, weather delays and permitting issues in a blog for the world to see and read.

Architects Jose E. Tavel and Cara B. Cummins, who own TaC Studios, are doing just that as they build an environmentally friendly home in the Old 4th Ward. They started the blog, LEED 4  Ward (, before building even began.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a green building certification system that measures energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality and more. Tavel and Cummins are going for platinum status, the highest and most difficult designation to attain.

In early July, Alaska Avenue echoed with the sound of drilling machines boring the home’s geothermal wells. The machines drill 200 to 250 feet down hitting water and granite along the way. Using the Earth’s natural heating, the homeowners hope to cut a projected $350 per month energy bill to about $40.

The house was wrapped in Zip panels, an environmentally friendly building material that waterproofs and insulates, and comes factory-read for quick installation. High performance windows, foam insulation, Energy Star rated fixtures and appliances will also go toward meeting LEED standards. The house will be clad in metal panels that are not only stylish, but will never need painting.

Tavel and Cummins have designed green homes and buildings for their clients, but building one themselves offered an opportunity to document the process so others can see what building a LEED certified home entails.

The couple decided to build the house after selling their home around the corner to a client who fell in love with the modern design.

“Our client wanted something similar to our home and after he offered to buy it, we decided to go for it,” Cummins said. “We had purchased the other lot and decided it was a great opportunity to build a new home and studio.”

The lot is located along the BeltLine and a short walk from Highland Avenue and all its shops and restaurants. “We love the Old 4th Ward, so we definitely wanted to stay in the neighborhood,” Cummins said.

Just as construction was getting under way in January, the massive snow and ice storm hit Atlanta. The run of unpredictable weather meant the loss of 23 days in the building process by March. Spring and summer storms had Taval and Cummins keeping fingers crossed that trees wouldn’t damage the under-construction home.

Even while the house is still under construction, its clear the house was designed with light in mind. Walls of windows provide startling amounts of natural light and seamlessly connect the outdoor living spaces. The upstairs studio suite will feature a large workspace, storage and conference room. The studio will be sectioned off from the bedrooms with pocket doors. There’s also a rooftop deck with impressive views of the neighborhood.

The house should be finished in September and will certainly be a gem for the neighborhood. With its hidden gardens, Koi pond, lap pool, porches and welcoming front façade, Taval and Cummins are looking forward to living and working in the house.


Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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