Building Homes! Rebuilding Lives! Habitat Is Building Green

Building Homes! Rebuilding Lives!
Habitat Is Building Green
By William L. Bulla

The term "building green" is used by many and in diverse ways. Habitat defines it as providing housing for people with methods, products and processes that lessen its detrimental impacts on the health of the human and ecological environment.
According to the Architecture 2030 Challenge "unknowingly, the architecture and building community is responsible for almost half of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions annually." According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, buildings consume 48 percent of energy in the U.S. The residential slice of the building sector consumes 21 percent, just behind the transportation sector (27 percent). In addition, the construction and maintenance of buildings are responsible for 30 percent of wood and raw material use. Sediments from unchecked construction site run-off damages fish and wildlife habitat in streams and lakes. The list goes on concerning negative impacts of construction and buildings on the health of our environment. Therefore, how and where we construct housing are critical issues to consider as our health, economy and culture will feel the long-term impacts from our actions taken today. Economically, cost-benefit analyses show tremendous long-term savings to homeowners and society when we design housing that is energy-and resource-efficient.
Habitat for Humanity's contribution to providing affordable housing is crucial with nearly 12 percent of Americans-33 million people living below the official poverty line. Although the immediate need to provide low-cost shelter is obvious, what is becoming increasingly important is the ability to ensure that these houses are affordable to their owners over the long term. That means building homes that incorporate energy-efficient measures and technologies in their design.
Habitat for Humanity is taking these extra steps to make homes more environmentally friendly. The organization strives to help residents get out of substandard housing and into a new home that is both energy efficient and affordable.
The more energy efficient a home is, the less are the running costs and that's important for Habitat homeowners.
Habitat for Humanity sells homes to low-income members of the community through Habitat for Humanity's home ownership plan that includes zero percent mortgages and no down payment. Homebuyers must help build their homes by putting in 500 hours of sweat equity.
Habitat for Washington County is thankful for a state grant and for several generous local businesses that helped them provide energy efficiency measures in all of its homes this year. All homes will meet or exceed nationally recognized green building standards. The upgrades should save Habitat homeowners 30% on their overall energy costs.
Habitat is always seeking ways to keep homes affordable for families and, with the rise in utility prices; energy efficiency is an important factor in helping families with the overall cost of housing.
Tim Jones of Glory Energy Solutions, a local energy auditor, donated his services to help find the most cost effective ways to make Habitat's homes energy efficient. Southland Insulators and Mountain State Insulation are providing the sealing and insulation at an incredibly low cost. Warrenfeltz Refrigeration, United Refrigeration, Lennox Industries, and R.E. Michaels donated and greatly discounted materials for the HVAC system. Barry Warrenfeltz has also donated his labor on the HVAC system for the Thrivent Builds house. Habitat is grateful for these contributions!
If you would like to get involved with Habitat for Humanity but are afraid you don't have the skills needed, volunteers will help you step by step through the entire process. It is important to remember that no experience is required. For more information on how you can donate, volunteer to build homes or apply to own a Habitat home, please call 301-791-9009.

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.