Every simple, decent, affordable house that Habitat for Humanity builds is the result of partnership. Volunteers, families and donors come together to make those houses happen. An increasing number of those Habitat homes benefit from another special category of collaboration: expertise and support that results in sustainable and energy-efficient construction.
Green building practices go hand in hand with Habitat’s mission of improving the lives of low-income families. The organization’s goals are to create healthy living conditions and reduce home-related monthly and life-cycle costs. Durable construction, localized solutions and conservation of resources go a long way to achieving those goals.
Across the United States and around the world, Habitat affiliates have forged special partnerships to tackle a variety of projects that are green — and growing in number. A few recent and notable examples:
•Habitat affiliates throughout northern and central California have partnered with Pacific Gas and Electric since 2007 to place solar panels on more than 400 Habitat homes, most recently 12 homes built by Oakland’s Habitat East Bay/Silicon Valley. The panels are estimated to save homeowners $500 a year on their electric bills and keep more than 132,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere over the 30-year life of the system.
• In New Hampshire, Pemi-Valley recently joined the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative to give volunteers hands-on experience with sealing and insulating homes for maximum energy efficiency. The two organizations held special build days, working on the first of four neighboring energy-efficient homes.
• The St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity Eco Village in River Falls, Wisconsin,
It draws on dozens of national and local partners who are helping to create the 18-house community along a sustainable and integrated design plan. Elements include Passive House principles, solar power and radiant heating, cisterns and rain barrels, and edible landscapes and community gardens.
The beauty of these types of projectsis that they help families, but also demonstrate that — when innovation meets partnership —efficient, ecological building practices can be both beautiful and affordable.
By Shala Carlson. Shala Carlson is the editor of Habitat World, the flagship print and online publication of Habitat for Humanity International.