Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Habitat for Humanity has always worked to build energy-efficient homes, but from now on Habitat homes will be rated by both a federal and local building standard.
In addition to meeting federal Energy Star 3.0 standards, local Habitat homes will also receive the Better Built certification. This certification, which was developed by local nonprofit organization greenspaces, is a good home index that requires specialized site planning, a high level of water and energy efficiency and sustainable materials and construction methods.
“It starts with how we maintain the property during site work and continues through the framing process to help cut down on waste and lumber usage,” said Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga director of construction and land development Dennis Neal of the certification. “Then it goes all the way through the rest of the process, even to the point of detailing how the HVAC system is installed.”
For Neal, building energy-efficient homes is nothing new. He helped build two Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified Habitat homes in the area and has been responsible for implementing the Better Built certification for the organization. So far two homes have been certified and a third is on its way, he said.
“The biggest misconception with green building is that it’s too expensive or too hard to maintain,” said Neal. “We’ve found neither of those to be true. The biggest challenge with it for me is that the concept of green is fluid; it keeps changing and upgrading. I get webinars from Energy Star almost daily, so I have to stay on that. A lot of builders just don’t have time for that, but for us it’s worth it.”
Not only does the leadership of Habitat for Humanity feel good about being environmentally responsible while building, staff has also found that energy-efficient homes are considerably better investments for their clients in the long run.
“For a lot of families their mortgage [on the Habitat home] is less than what their utility bills used to be,” said Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga Executive Director Donna Williams. “With more energy-efficient homes our homeowners see a dramatic decrease in utility bills and an increase in the air quality in their homes.”
In terms of energy loss, Neal said the average home loses the same amount of energy each day that it would if the homeowner left their front door open all the time or didn’t even have one. The average Habitat home loses a fraction of that, he said.
“The family is our first priority when we build and all of our homes are built with the family in mind,” said Neal. “Building to the energy standards that we do allows them to stay in their homes longer, more comfortably and more sustainably.”
For more information about Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga visit www.habichatt.org