Habitat for Humanity Embraces Sustainable Building
Green building means designing and constructing houses that are efficient and durable, use fewer resources and are healthy to live in.
Content provided by PGi
Almost everyone has heard of Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry that brings people of all backgrounds, races and religions together to build houses for families in need. What most people might not know is that Habitat for Humanity is committed to building sustainably, and that a large and growing number of HFH affiliates are constructing certified sustainable or “green” homes with the organization.
For Habitat, sustainable, or “green” building means designing and constructing houses that are efficient and durable, use fewer resources, and are healthy to live in.
“When core Habitat principles, simple and decent, are married with sustainable building practices in order to build small, healthier homes, the benefits are astounding,” explains Kevin Gobble, Habitat’s sustainable building and design specialist.
“These health benefits are crucial given that many studies cite poor indoor air quality as one of the leading causes of asthma among low income children.”
By employing cost-effective sustainable building practices, Habitat is developing homes that create healthier indoor air quality, and cost less to operate and maintain, making them more affordable for the short and long term while utilizing environmentally responsible methods.
The organization’s current U.S. house design criteria require all new Habitat houses to be built to the minimum ENERGY STAR standard (energy consumption of 15 percent to 20 percent below current building codes) by 2013, and future plans for sustainable Habitat projects range from town homes to whole neighborhoods and communities. Of course, HFH will continue to encourage and support affiliates who seek to go beyond ENERGY STAR standards.
HFH educates site managers and volunteers on sustainable building practices by hosting national and regional trainings, offering technical assistance and online information for affiliates, communicating best practices by climate zone, and organizing programs and networking events to share what’s working.
“Sustainable building practices will be a part of Habitat’s future whether building new, rehabbing, repairing or weatherizing homes,” Gobble says.
Founded by Millard and Linda Fuller in 1976, HFH has built over 350,000 houses around the world, providing more than 1.75 million people with safe and affordable shelter. The organization, which operates across the United States and worldwide in over 90 countries, depends on volunteer labor and donations of money and materials to build and renovate homes, which are then sold to partner families at no profit and financed with affordable loans.
In addition to investing a down payment and monthly mortgage payments, Habitat homeowners (chosen based on their level of need, their willingness to become partners in the program, and their ability to repay the loan) also commit to hundreds of hours of their own labor to build their house. Finally, the homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments are used to build still more Habitat homes.
It’s no surprise that sustainable building practices are important to the organization, which believes that a home can be both affordable and energy efficient. In fact, one of their Mission Principles focuses on “promoting transformational and sustainable community development” while “demonstrating respectful stewardship of all human, economic and natural resources.”
Interested in learning more or volunteering on a sustainable Habitat for Humanity project? Use the organization’s search engine to find local affiliates and connect with the organization in your community.
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