By Dan Wilson
Sacramento Habitat for Humanity’s director of construction
Following green building practices and striving for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification have become the norm for us here at Sacramento Habitat. Out of the last seven homes that we’ve built, all have been LEED-certified with two Platinums and five Golds. We’ve known all along that we were making an important difference in energy conservation for the families that we serve, but this summer, we actually had proof.
One of our families moved into their new home in April, just at the beginning of our hottest season. (In Sacramento, during the summer, most days are 90-plus degrees.) After seven months, we asked to see their electric bills. We weren’t surprised, but the results truly justified everything that we do. They actually had a $50 credit from their local electricity provider! I decided it was time to share our success story with the U.S. Green Building Council. As a result, Sacramento Habitat won the council’s “Outstanding Program Commitment” award in Chicago just a few weeks ago.
We submitted five of our recent homes with documented water savings due to drought-tolerant landscaping and energy-efficient plumbing fixtures. Thanks to a donation from our local gas/electric company, we also were able to install solar panels. The panels — along with low-emissive windows and attic insulation with radiant barriers — were able to reduce electric bills by as much as 70 percent.
As we move forward, I realize that it does “take a village” to make something like this happen. I’ve forgotten to mention an important part of just how we can build a home that would normally be out of our price range because of all of the LEED features. We have our very own “Green Team” — structural engineers, a landscape architect/designer, a mechanical engineer, our Sacramento Habitat LEED superintendents. These individuals give tirelessly because, like me, they believe that Habitat families need long-term sustainability in a world where, let’s face it, utility bills always seem to go up and never down!
I knew in my heart it was the right things to do — for the environment, yes, but more important for our families’ sustainability. Empowering families for the long haul … that’s what we’re all about!