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A partnership for the future -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

A partnership for the future

Five-year program includes funding, resources to increase green building in United States

Habitat for Humanity International and The Home Depot Foundation launched a program in 2008 called Partners in Sustainable Building that aims to make at least 5,000 houses built by Habitat affiliates more energy-efficient and sustainable. The legacy of the initiative, however, could last much longer.

The US$30 million in financial and in-kind support, technical resources and training provided by The Home Depot Foundation also will foster a level of green-building expertise that will impact Habitat builds for years to come.

Funds and resources provided by the foundation will help Habitat affiliates expand their use of energy-efficient equipment, install more water-conserving fixtures and ensure good indoor air quality. The funding also will help Habitat affiliates secure third-party verification of nationally recognized green building standards.

The five-year partnership began with a one-year pilot program with approximately 30 Habitat affiliates in a variety of climates and in rural and urban areas. Habitat for Humanity/7 Rivers Maine, an affiliate serving 31 towns in three counties on the southern coast of Maine, already had committed to making their homes more energy-efficient when the program was announced, but participating in the pilot has speeded their progress and accelerated the learning curve, executive director Tara Hill says.

“The construction training we received was excellent, and the network that has developed will certainly prove to be helpful as we implement more and more changes to our building process,” she says.

Some of the strategies the affiliate has employed to increase efficiency include building on an insulated slab rather than the traditional basement, using radiant floor heat with a high-efficiency burner, eliminating air leaks, and switching to Energy Star appliances and compact fluorescent lights. The techniques affiliate staff members have learned are being applied beyond the scope of the Partners in Sustainable Building program as well, as the affiliate has launched a repair and weatherization program to assist low-income homeowners.

“Using the same principles that we are applying to the new builds, we are conscious of providing these families with the biggest bang for their buck,” Hill says. “For example, new windows are terrific, but not if the attic isn’t insulated. To ensure that we are providing the most important improvements, we are hoping to create energy teams with a certified energy auditor and weatherization technicians. They can address low-cost weatherization projects or larger repair projects.”