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Field notes: March 2010 -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Field notes: March 2010

Perspectives from around Habitat’s world



Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford speaks during the opening ceremonies of World Habitat Day 2009. The event was held at the National Building Museum, with the theme “Planning Our Urban Future.”


Highlighting housing issues around the globe: international events marked October’s World Habitat Day

On October 5, Habitat for Humanity International joined the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), and the Rockefeller Foundation to raise awareness of poverty housing issues and solutions.

At the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., a crowd of 500 gathered to discuss rapid urbanization and the lack of adequate shelter. Speakers included Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Dr. Anna Tibaijuka and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by video.

In addition to the celebrations spearheaded in Washington, at least 82 World Habitat Day events were hosted by Habitat-affiliated organizations in the United States, and at least 26 Habitat-hosted events took place around the world.

A sampling of the day’s events:

  • Habitat Romania’s Big Build began the construction of 10 homes as part of the effort to shine a spotlight on secure tenure issues and poverty housing. More than 200 local and international volunteers gathered to construct the houses over five days with low-income workers who had grown up in state-run orphanages.
  • Habitat Niagara in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, arranged for the evening illumination of Niagara Falls in Habitat colors.
  • Habitat’s “Shelter Report 2010: The Case for Low-Income Homeowners” was discussed at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The report, available online at, focuses on the important role of low-income homeownership in the United States and discusses the impact housing has on families’ lives.
  • Online, 4,495 advocates took action for adequate and affordable housing in support of World Habitat Day, resulting in more than 13,000 letters sent to decision makers from Oct. 1 through Oct. 5.
  • Through a photo petition campaign designed by Habitat’s Government Relations and Advocacy Office, more than 1,500 photos of Habitat supporters holding signs reading “It All Starts at Home” were uploaded to the social media Web site Flickr. Those signs were used to make a photo mosaic, which was distributed online as part of the World Habitat Day advocacy message.

Learn more about World Habitat Day and Habitat’s ongoing advocacy efforts.




Timothy Gistover and his nephew celebrated the dedication of their new Habitat for Humanity house in Nashville in October.



A team of volunteers from various forestry and environmental groups had come together in September to help build the house using specially treated wall panel and siding.


“Green” roof in New York City

With the help of a dozen employees from Delta Air Lines last fall, Habitat New York City constructed its first “green” roof. The 2,400-square-foot green roof—covered with a thin layer of living plants—sits atop a newly constructed co-op building in the South Bronx, which will be home to 12 Habitat partner families among 50 affordable units.

Lined with interlocking trays of low-maintenance sedum plants, the green roof represents an increasingly popular sustainable building technique, insulating the building and helping to reduce urban heat island effect. With a protected roof membrane installed below the greenery, this “living roof ” is set to last 200 percent to 300 percent longer than a traditional roof and acts as both a filter and storm water management system, decreasing the need for separate systems.

Forest, environmental groups build with Habitat

A group of volunteers connected with various forestry and environmental groups spent a wet and muddy Monday building with Nashville Area Habitat for Humanity in September.

The house they worked on was sponsored in part by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, a nonprofit organization responsible for one of the largest third-party forest certification programs in the world. Other organizations, including the Tennessee Forestry Association, Tennessee Nature Conservancy and The Tennessee Environmental Council, provided resources or volunteers for the project.

Dr. David Mercker, an extension forester with the University of Tennessee, helped the group install siding on the house. “Trees are America’s most miraculous renewable natural resource,” he says. “Foresters as a body of professionals offer a great service to individuals, communities, our country and beyond, through the practical application of approved methods of sustainable forest management. We manage forests, ultimately, for the benefit of the greater society.”

The community in which the SFI house is located, Timberwood, is Habitat’s third affordable housing community in the Nashville area. Timothy Gistover and his 13-year-old nephew moved into the house this past fall, establishing a home base not only for the two of them but also for the two college-age siblings of Timothy’s nephew.

Since 2007, all Nashville Area Habitat homes have been ENERGY STAR compliant. The SFI-sponsored house is unique, however, in that it was built using ZIP wall and roof panels, which are wood products treated to resist water and air infiltration and eliminate the need for house wrap or felt.

In addition to Tennessee, SFI Implementation Committees in Minnesota and Maine have partnered with local Habitat affiliates, and SFI program participants are donating resources and providing volunteers to build Habitat homes for Aboriginal families—including the first Habitat home in a First Nations community at Alderville, Ontario, and one involving the Manitoba Métis Federation.